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Full text of "Franklins autobiography"

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1910 
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ECLECTIC ENGLISH CLASSICS 



FRANKLIN'S 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



EDITED BY 

O. LEON REID 

HEAD OF ENGLISH DEPARTMENT, LOUISVILLE MALE 
HIGH SCHOOL, LOUISVILLE, KY. 



NEW YORK •:• CINCINNATI •:• CHICAGO 

AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY 






Copyright, 1896 and 1910, by 
American Book Company 

BBNJAMIN FRANKLIN 
W, P. I 



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■|£CI.A27S29 



INTRODUCTION. 



When Franklin was bom, in 1706, Queen Anne was on the 
English throne, and Swift and Defoe were pamphleteering. The 
one had not yet written ^'Gulliver's Travels," nor the other "Rob- 
inson Crusoe ; " neither had Addison and Steele and other wits of 
Anne's reign begun the '' Spectator." Pope was eighteen years 
old. 

At that time ships bringing news, food and raiment, and laws 
and governors to the ten colonies of America, ran grave chances 
of falling into the hands of the pirates who infested the waters of 
the shores. In Boston Cotton Mather was persecuting witches. 
There were no stage coaches in the land, — merely a bridle path led 
from New York to Philadelphia, — and a printing press through- 
out the colonies was a raree-show. 

Only six years before Franklin's birth, the first newspaper re- 
port for the first newspaper in the country was written on the death 
of Captain Kidd and six of his companions near Boston, when 
the editor of the " News-Letter " told the story of the hanging of 
the pirates, detailing the exhortations and prayers and their taking- 
off. Franklin links us to another world of action. 

His boyhood in Boston was a stem beginning of the habit of 
hard work and rigid economy which marked the man. For a 
year he went to the Latin Grammar School on School Street, but 

5 



6 INTRODUCTION, 

left off at the age of ten to help his father in making soap and 
candles. He persisted in showing such '^ bookish inclination," 
however, that at twelve his father apprenticed him to learn the 
printer's trade. At seventeen he ran off to Philadelphia and there 
began his independent career. 

In the main he led such a life as the maxims of " Poor Richard " i 
enjoin. The pages of the Autobiography show few deviations 
from such a course. He felt the need of school training and 
set to work to educate himself. He had an untiring industry, 
and love of the approval of his neighbor ; and he knew that more 
things fail through want of care than want of knowledge. His 
practical imagination was continually forming projects ; and, for- 
tunately for the world, his great physical strength and activity were 
always setting his ideas in motion. He was human-hearted, and 
this strong sympathy of his, along with his strength and zeal and 
''projecting head'' (as Defoe calls such a spirit), devised much 
that helped life to amenity and comfort. In politics he had 
the outlook of the self-reliant colonist whose devotion to the 
mother institutions of England was finally ahenated by the ex- 
cesses of a power which thought itself all-powerful. 

In this Autobiography Franklin tells of his own life to the 
year 1757, when he went to England to support the petition of 
the legislature against Penn's sons. The grievance of the colo- 
nists was a very considerable one, for the proprietaries claimed 
that taxes should not be levied upon a tract greater than the 
whole State of Pennsylvania. 

Franklin was received in England with applause. His experi- 
ments in electricity and his inventions had made him known, and 
the sayings of '' Poor Richard " were already in the mouths of the 
1 See pp. 198-206. 



INTRODUCTION, 7 

people. But he waited nearly three years before he could obtain 
a hearing for the matter for which he had crossed the sea. 

During the delay he visited the ancient home of his family, 
and made the acquaintance of men of mark, receiving also that 
degree of Doctor of Civil Law by which he came to be known 
as Dr. Franklin. In this time, too, he found how prejudiced was 
the common English estimate of the value of the colonies. He 
wrote Lord Kames in 1760, after the defeat of the French in 
Canada: "No one can more sincerely rejoice than I do on the 
reduction of Canada ; and this is not merely as I am a colonist, 
but as I am a Briton. I have long been of opinion that the foun- 
dations of the future grandeur and stability of the British empire lie 
in America; and though, like other foundations, they are low and 
Httle now, they are, nevertheless, broad and strong enough to sup- 
port the greatest political structure that human wisdom ever yet 
erected. I am, therefore, by no means for restoring Canada. If 
we keep it all the country from the St. Lawrence to the Missis- 
sippi will in another century be filled with British people. Britain 
itself will become vastly more populous by the immense increase 
of its commerce ; the Atlantic sea will be covered with your trad- 
ing ships ; and your naval power, thence continually increasing, 
will extend your influence round the whole globe and awe the 
world! . . . But I refrain, for I see you begin to think my 
notions extravagant, and look upon them as the ravings of a 
madman." 

At last Franklin won the king's signature to a bill by the terms 
of which the surveyed lands of the proprietaries should be as- 
sessed, and, his business accomplished, he returned to Phila- 
delphia. "You require my history," he wrote to Lord Kames, 
" from the time I set sail for America. I left England about the 



8 INTRODUCTION. 

end of August, 1762, in company with ten sail of merchant ships 
under a convoy of a man-of-war. We had a pleasant passage 
to Madeira. . . . Here we furnished ourselves with fresh provi- 
sions, and refreshments of all kinds ; and, after a few days, pro- 
ceeded on our voyage, running southward until we got into the 
trade winds, and then with them westward till we drew near the 
coast of America. The weather was so favorable that there were 
few days in which we could not visit from ship to ship, dining 
with each other and on board of the man-of-war; which made 
the time pass agreeably, much more so than when one goes in a 
single ship ; for this was like traveling in a moving village, with 
all one's neighbors about one. 

" On the I St of November I arrived safe and well at my own 
home, after an absence of near six years, found my wife and 
daughter well, — the latter grown quite a woman, with many ami- 
able accomplishments acquired in my absence, — and my friends as 
hearty and affectionate as ever, with whom my house was filled 
for many days to congratulate me on my return. I had been 
chosen yearly during my absence to represent the city of Phila- 
delphia in our Provincial Assembly; and on my appearance in 
the House, they voted me three thousand pounds sterling for my 
services in England, and their thanks, delivered by the Speaker. 
In February following, my son arrived with my new daughter; 
for, with my consent and approbation, he married, soon after I left 
England, a very agreeable West India lady, with whom he is very 
happy. I accompanied him to his government [New Jersey], 
where he met with the kindest reception from the people of all 
ranks, and has lived with them ever since in the greatest harmony. 
A river only parts that province and ours, and his residence is 
within seventeen miles of me, so that we frequently see each other, 



INTRODUCTION, g 

'' In the spring of 1 763 I set out on a tour through all the north- 
ern colonies to inspect and regulate the post offices in the several 
provinces. In this journey I spent the summer, traveled about 
sixteen hundred miles, and did not get home till the beginning of 
November. The Assembly sitting through the following winter, 
and warm disputes arising between them and the governor, I be- 
came wholly engaged in public affairs; for, besides my duty as 
an Assemblyman, I had another trust to execute, that of being 
one of the commissioners appointed by law to dispose of the pub- 
lic money appropriated to the raising and paying an army to act 
against the Indians and defend the frontiers. And then, in De- 
cember, we had two insurrections of the back inhabitants of our 
province. . . . Governor Penn made my house for some time 
his headquarters, and did everything by my advice ; so that for 
about forty-eight hours I was a very great man, as I had been 
once some years before, in a time of public danger. ^ 

" But the fighting face we put on and the reasoning we used 
with the insurgents . . . having turned them back and restored 
quiet to the city, I became a less man than ever; for I had by 
this transaction made myself many enemies among the populace ; 
and the governor, . . . thinking it a favorable opportunity, joined 
the whole weight of the proprietary interest to get me out of the 
Assembly ; which was accordingly effected at the last election by 
a majority of about twenty-five in four thousand voters. The 
House, however, when they met in October, approved of the reso- 
lutions taken, while I was Speaker, of petitioning the Crown for 
a change of government, and requested me to return to England 
to prosecute that petition ; which service I accordingly undertook, 
and embarked at the beginning of November last, being accom- 
1 The time of Braddock's defeat. 



lO INTRODUCTION, 

panied to the ship, sixteen miles, by a cavalcade of three hundred 
of my friends, who filled our sails with their good wishes, and I 
arrived in thirty days at London." 

Instead of giving his efforts to the proposed change of govern- 
ment Franklin found greater duties. The debt which England 
had incurred during the war with the French in Canada she now 
looked to the colonists for aid in removing. At home taxes were 
levied by every device. The whole country was in distress and 
laborers starving. In the colonies there was the thrift that comes 
from narrowest means ; but the people refused to answer parlia- 
mentary levies and claimed that they would lay their own taxes 
through their own legislatures. They resisted so successfully the 
enforcement of the Stamp Act that Parliament began to discuss 
its repeal. At this juncture Franklin was examined before the 
Commons in regard to the results of the act. 

Q. Do you not think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp 
duty if it was moderated? 

A. No, never, unless compelled by force of arms. . . . 

Q. What was the temper of America toward Great Britain before the year 

1763?! 

A, The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government 
of the Crown, and paid, in their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. 
Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing 
in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They 
w^ere governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and 
paper ; they were led by a thread. They had not only a respect but an affec- 
tion for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a 
fondness for its fashions that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of 
Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an ^' Old England 

1 When the old duties *' upon all rum, spirits, molasses, syrups, sugar," 
etc., were renewed, and extended to other articles. 



INTROD UCTION. 1 1 

man " was, of itself, a character of some respect, an'd gave a kind of rank 
among us. 

Q, And what is their temper now? 

A, Oh, very much altered. . . . 

Q, If the Stamp Act should be repealed, would it induce the assemblies 
of America to acknowledge the right of Parliament to tax them, and would 
they erase their resolutions? 

A. No, never. 

Q. Are there no means of obliging them to erase those resolutions? 

A, None that I know of; they will never do it unless compelled by force 
of arms. 

Q. Is there a power on earth that can force them to erase them? 

A. No power, how great soever, can force men to change their opin- 
ions. . . . 

Q, What used to be the pride of the Americans? 

A. To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain. 

Q, What is now their pride? 

A. To wear their old clothes over again, till they can make new ones. 

After the repeal of the act, Franklin wrote to his wife : " I am 
willing you should have a new gown, which you may suppose I 
did not send sooner as I knew you would not like to be finer than 
your neighbors unless in a gown of your own spinning. Had the 
trade between the two countries totally ceased, it was a comfort 
to me to recollect that I had once been clothed from head to foot 
in woolen and linen of my wife's manufacture, that I never was 
prouder of any dress in my life, and that she and her daughter 
might do it again if it was necessary." 

Franklin stayed ten years in England. In 1774 he presented 
to the king the petition of the first Continental Congress, in 
which the petitioners, who protested their loyalty to Great Britain, 
claimed the right of taxing themselves. But, finding this and 
other efforts at adjustment of little avail, he returned to Phila- 



12 INTRODUCTION, 

delphia in May, 1775. On the 5th of July he wrote to Mr. Stra- 
han, an old friend in London : ^' You are a member of Parliament, 
and one' of that majority which has doomed my country to de- 
struction. You have begun to burn our towns and murder our 
people. Look upon your hands ; they are stained with the blood 
of your relations ! You and I were long friends ; you are now 
my enemy, and I am yours." 

After the Declaration of Independence and the establishment 
of the States as a nation, Franklin was chosen as representative 
to France. '' I am old and good for nothing,'* he said, when 
told of the choice, *' but, as the storekeepers say of their rem- 
^ nants of cloth, I am but a fag-end ; you may have me for what 
you please." 

It was a most important post. France was the ancient enemy 
of England, and the contingent of men and aid of money which 
Franklin gained served to the successful issue of the Revolution. 
He lived while in France at Passy, near Paris, from which he 
wrote to a friend in England : '' You are too early ... in call- 
ing me rebel ; you should wait for the event which will determine 
whether it is a rebellion or only a revolution. ... I know you 
wish you could see me ; but, as you cannot, I will describe my- 
self to you. Figure me in your mind as jolly as formerly, and as 
strong and hearty, only a few years older; very plainly dressed, 
wearing my thin, gray, straight hair, that peeps out under my only 
coiffure, a fine fur cap which comes down my forehead almost to 
my spectacles. Think how this must appear among the powdered 
heads of Paris! I wish every lady and gentleman in France 
would only be so obliging .as to follow my fashion, comb their 
own heads as I do mine, dismiss their friseurs, and pay me half 
the money they pay to them." 



INTRODUCTION, 13 

At last, in 1785, he came home, old and broken in health. He 
was chosen president, or governor, of Pennsylvania, and the faith 
of the people in his wisdom made him delegate to the conven- 
tion which framed the Constitution in 1787. He died in 1790, 
and was buried by his wife in the graveyard of Christ Church, 
Philadelphia. 

The epitaph which he had written when a printer was not put 
upon his tomb : 

THE BODY 

OF 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 

PRINTER 

(Like the cover of an old book, 

Its contents torn out, 

And stript of its lettering and gilding,) 

Lies here, food for worms. 

But the work shall not be lost, 

For it will (as he believed) appear once more 

In a new and elegant edition. 

Revised and corrected 

by 

The Author. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 



§ I. PARENTAGE AND BOYHOOD. 

TwYFORD,! at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, 1771. 

DEAR SON: 2 I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any 
little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the 
inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you 
were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that 
purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know 
the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unac- 
quainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninter- 
rupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to 
write them for you. To which I have besides some other induce- 
ments. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which 
I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of 
reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with 
a considerable share of fehcity, the conducing means I made use 
of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my poster- 

1 A village near Winchester, Hampshire, England, where Dr. Jonathan 
Shipley had his country house. Dr. Shipley was Bishop of St. Asaph's in 
Wales, and Franklin's friend. 

2 Franklin's only living son, William, who in 1762 had been made royal 
governor of New Jersey, with the hope of detaching Franklin from the cause 
of the colonists. 

IS 



1 6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to 
their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated. 

That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes 
to say that, were it offered to my choice, I should have no objec- 
tion to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only ask- 
ing the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct 
some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, 
change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more 
favorable. But though this were denied, I should still accept the 
offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next 
thing like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection 
of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible 
by putting it down in writing. 

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination, so natural in old 
men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions ; and 
I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, — who, through 
respect to age, might conceive themselves obhged to give me a 
hearing, — since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And, 
lastly, (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be be- 
lieved by nobody.) perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own 
vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, 
''Without vanity, I may say," etc., but some vain thing immedi- 
ately followed. Most people dishke vanity in others, whatever 
share they may have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter 
wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often produc- 
tive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his 
sphere of action ; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be 
altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity 
among the other comforts of life. 

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility 
to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past 
hfe to his kind providence, which led me to the means I used and 
gave them success. My behef of this induces me to hope, though 
I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised 
toward me in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 17 

a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done ; the 

complexion of my futm-e fortune being known to Him only in 
whose power it is to bless to us even our afflictions. 

The notes one of my uncles (who had the same kind of curiosity 
in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands furnished 
me with several particulars relating to our ancestors. From these 
notes I learned that the family had lived in the same village, 
Ecton, in Northamptonshire,^ for three hundred years, and how 
much longer he knew not, (perhaps from the time when the name 
of Franklin, that before was the name of an order of people,^ was 
assumed by them as a surname when others took surnames all 
over the kingdom,) on a freehold of about thirty acres, aided by 
the smith's business, which had continued in the family till his 
time, the eldest son being always bred to that business, — a custom 
which he and my father followed as to their eldest sons. When 
I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their 
births, marriages, and burials from the year 1555 only, there being 
no registers kept in that parish at any time preceding. By that 
register I perceived that I was the youngest son of the youngest 
son for five generations back. My grandfather, Thomas, who was 
born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow busi- 
ness longer, when he went to live with his son John, a dyer at 
Banbury, in Oxfordshire, with whom my father served an appren- 
ticeship. There my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw 
his gravestone in 1 758. His eldest son, Thomas, lived in the house 
at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only child, a daughter, 
who, with her husband, one Fisher, of WelHngborough, sold it to 
Mr. Isted, now lord ^ of the manor there. My grandfather had 
four sons that grew up, namely, Thomas, John, Benjamin, and 

1 A franklin was a freeman, or freeholder, or owner of the land on which 
he dwelt. The franklins were by their possessions fitted for becoming sher- 
iffs, knights, etc. After the Norman Conquest (in the eleventh century) men 
in England took, in addition to the first name, another which was suggested 
by their condition in life, their trade, or some personal peculiarity. See Note. 

2 Proprietor. 



1 8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Josiah. I will give you what account I can of them, at this dis- 
tance from my papers, and if these are not lost in my absence, you 
will among them find many more particulars. 

Thomas was bred a smith under his father ; but, being ingen- 
ious, and encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an 
Esquire ^ Palmer, then the principal gentleman in that parish, he 
qualified himself for the business of scrivener ; 2 became a consid- 
erable man in the county ; was a chief mover of all public-spirited 
undertakings for the county or town of Northampton and his own 
village, of which many instances were related of him ; and much 
taken notice of and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He 
died in 1702, Jan. 6, old style,^ just four years to a day before 
I was born. The account we received of his life and character 
from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as some- 
thing extraordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of mine. 
''Had he died on the same day,^' you said, ''one might have 
supposed a transmigration.'^^ 

John was bred a dyer, I believe, of woolens. Benjamin was 
bred a silk dyer, serving an apprenticeship at London. He was 
an ingenious man. I remember him well, for when I was a boy 
he came over to my father in Boston, and lived in the house with 
us some years. He lived to a great age. His grandson, Samuel 
Franklin, now lives in Boston. He left behind him two quarto vol- 
umes, in manuscript, of his own poetry, consisting of little occasional 
pieces addressed to his friends and relations, of which the follow- 
ing, sent to me, is a specimen.^ He had formed a shorthand of 
his own, which he taught me, but, never practicing it, I have now 

1 A title given in England in Franklin's time to the descendants of knights 
and noblemen. 

2 A writer whose duties were similar to those of our notary. 

3 *^ Old style," i.e., the method of reckoning time which formerly prevailed 
and which had caused an error of eleven days. The new style of reckoning 
was adopted in England in 1752. 

^ The passage of the soul into another body ; one might have supposed 
that the soul of the uncle had taken up abode in Franklin's body. 
5 Franklin omitted the verses. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 19 

forgot it. I was named after this uncle, there being a particular 
affection between him and my father. He was very pious, a great 
attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he took down 
in his shorthand, and had with him many volumes of them. He 
was also much of a politician ; too much, perhaps, for his station. 
There fell lately into my hands, in London, a collection he had 
made of all the principal pamphlets relating to public affairs, from 
1 64 1 to 1717 ; many of the volumes are wanting, as appears by 
the numbering, but there still remain eight volumes in folio and 
twenty-four in quarto and octavo. A dealer in old books met 
with them, and knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he 
brought them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them 
here when he went to America, which was above fifty years since. 
There are many of his notes in the margins. 

This obscure family of ours was early in the Reformation, and 
continued Protestants through the reign of Queen Mary,i when 
they were sometimes in danger of trouble on account of their zeal 
against the queen's religion. They had got an English Bible, and 
to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes under and 
within the cover of a joint stool.^ When my great-great-grand- 
father read it to his family, he turned up the joint stool upon his 
knees, turning over the leaves then under the tapes. One of the 
children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor 
coming, who was an officer of the spiritual coiut. In that case 
the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible re- 
mained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from 
my uncle Benjamin. 

The family continued all of the Church of England till about 
the end of Charles II. 's reign, when some of the ministers that 
had been outed for nonconformity,^ holding conventicles in 

1 Who was queen from 1553 to 1558. 

2 ^' Joint stool," i.e., a stool made of parts fitted together. 

^ '^ Outed for nonconformity," i.e., turned out of the church for not con- 
forming to the usages of the Church of England and for holding meetings of 
dissenters for public worship. 



20 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah adhered to them, and so 
continued all their hves ; the rest of the family remained with the 
Episcopal Church. 

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife, with 
three children, into New England, about 1682. The conventicles 
having been forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed, induced 
some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that coun- 
try, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where 
they expected to enjoy their mode of rehgion with freedom. By 
the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a 
second wife ten more,— in all seventeen, of which I remember thir- 
teen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to be men 
and women and married. I was the youngest son, and the young- 
est child but two, and was born in Boston, New England.^ My 
mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter 
Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honor- 
able mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his Church history of 
that country entitled *' Magnalia Christi Aniericana," as " a goodly 
learned Enghshman,'* if I remember the words rightly. I have 
heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one 
of them was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was 
written in 1675, in the homespun verse of that time and people, 
and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. 
It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Bap- 
tists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecu- 
tion,2 ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had be- 
fallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of 
God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of 
those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared to me as written 
with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom. The 

1 Franklin was born Sunday, Jan. 17, 1706 (Jan. 6, old style). The 
family then lived in a small house on Milk Street, near the Old South Church, 
where the Boston Post building now stands. • 

2 The persecution which the first settlers practiced against all who differed 
with them in religious doctrines. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 2i 

six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two 
first of the stanza ; but the purport of them was that his censures 
proceeded from good will, and, therefoje, he would be known to 
be the author. 

'* Because to be a libeler [says he] 

I, hate it with my heart ; 
From Sherburne 1 town, where now I dwell. 

My name I do put here ; 
Without offense your real friend, 

It is Peter Folgier."2 

My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. 
I was put to the grammar school ^ at eight years of age, my father 
intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of 
the church. My early readiness in learning to read, (which must 
have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not 
read,) and the opinion of all his friends that I should certainly 
make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My 
uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all 
his shorthand volumes of sermons, I suppose as a stock to set up 
with, if I would learn his character.^ I continued, however, at 
the grammar school not quite one year, though in that time I had 
risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be 
the head of it, and, further, was removed into the next class above 

1 Sherburne is now called Nantucket. 

2 The lines which Dr. Franklin had forgotten are these : 

•• I am for peace and not for war, 

And that's the reason why 
I write more plain than some men do, 

That used to daub and lie. 
But I shall cease, and set my name 

To what I here insert, 
Because to be a libeler 

I hate it with my heart." 

^ In Franklin's time the grammar school was a school for teaching Latin, 
which was begun by committing the grammar to memory. 
^ Characters, or method of writing shorthand. 



22 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

it in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year. 
But my father in the mean time, from a view of the expense of a 
college education, which, having so large a family, he could not 
well afford, and the mean hving many so educated were after- 
ward able to obtain, — reasons that he gave to his friends in my 
hearing,— altered his first intention, took me from the grammar 
school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept 
by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful in 
his profession generally, and that by mild, encouraging methods. 
Under him I acquired fair writing pretty soon, but I failed in the 
arithmetic, and made no progress in it. At ten years old I was 
taken home to assist my father in his business, which was that of 
a tallow chandler and soap boiler, a business he was not bred to, 
but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on finding 
his dyeing trade would not maintain his family, being in little re- 
quest. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the 
candles, filling the dipping mold and the molds for cast candles,^ 
attending the shop, going of errands, etc. 

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, 
but my father declared against it. However, living near the water, 
I was much in and about it, learned early to swim well and to 
manage boats ; and when in a boat or canoe with other boys I 
was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of diffi- 
culty ; and upon other occasions I was generally a leader among 
the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will 
mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public 
spirit, though not then justly conducted. 

There was a salt marsh that bounded part of the mill pond, on 
the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for 
minnows. By much trampling we had made it a mere quagmire. 
My proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon, 
and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones which were in- 
tended for a new house near the marsh and which would very well 

1 Candles were made by dipping wicks in the fat a number of times, and 
also by setting the wicks in a mold and pouring the fat round them. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 23 

suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the work- 
men were gone, I assembled a number of my playfellows, and 
working with them diligently like so many emmets,^ sometimes 
two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our 
httle wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at 
missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was 
made after the removers; we were discovered and complained 
of ; several of us were corrected by our fathers ; and, though I 
pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that 
nothing was useful which was not honest. 

I think you may like to know something of his person and char- 
acter. He had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle 
stature, but well set and very strong. He w^as ingenious, could 
draw prettily, was skilled a little in music, and had a clear, pleas- 
ing voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on his violin and 
sung withal, as he sometimes did in an evening after the business 
of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had 
a mechanical genius, too, and on occasion was very handy in the 
use of other tradesmen's tools ; but his great excellence lay in a 
sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, 
both in private and pubhc affairs. In the latter, indeed, he was 
never employed, the numerous family he had to educate and the 
straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade ; but 
I remember well his being frequently visited by leading people, 
who consulted him for his opinion in affairs of the town or of the 
church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his 
judgment and advice ; he was also much consulted by private 
persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and fre- 
quently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his 
table he liked to have as often as he could some sensible friend 
or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some 
ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to im- 
prove the minds of his children. By this means he turned our 
attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of 

1 Ants, 



24 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

life, and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the 
victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out 
of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or 
that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a 
perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what 
kind of food was set before me, and so unobsen'ant of it that to 
this day if I am asked I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner 
what I dined upon. This has been a convenience to me in travel- 
ing, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy 
for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because 
better instructed, tastes and appetites. 

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution. I never 
knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that 
of which they died, he at eighty-nine and she at eighty-five years 
of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years 
since placed a marble ^ over their grave with this inscription : 

JosiAH Franklin, 

and 

Abiah his wife, 

lie here interred. 

They lived lovingly together in wedlock 

fifty-five years. 

Without an estate, or any gainful employment, 

By constant labor and industry, 

with God's blessing, 
They maintained a large family 

comfortably, 

and brought up thirteen children 

and seven grandchildren 

reputably. 

From this instance, reader, 

Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, 

And distrust not Providence. 

1 The marble having crumbled, a larger stone was placed over the grave 
in 1827, and Franklin's inscription repeated. It starids in the Granary Bury- 
ing Ground, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 25 

He was a pious and prudent man ; 

She, a discreet and virtuous woman. 

Their youngest son, 

In filial regard to their memory, 

Places this stone. 

J. F. born 1655, died 1744, setati 89. 

A. F. born 1667, died 1752, 85. 

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be grown old. 
I used to write more methodically. But one does not dress for 
private company as for a public ball, 'Tis perhaps only negli- 
gence. 

To return : I continued thus employed in my f ather^s business 
for two years, that is, till I was twelve years old ; and my brother 
John, who was bred to that business, having left my father, mar- 
ried, and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there v/as all appear- 
ance that I was destined to supply his place and become a tal- 
low chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father 
was under apprehensions that if he did not find one for me more 
agreeable I should break away and get to sea, as his son Josiah 
had done, to his great vexation. He therefore sometimes took me 
to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, turners, brasiers,^ 
etc., at their work, that he might observe my inclination and en- 
deavor to fix it on some trade or other on land. It has ever since 
been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools ; 
and it has been useful to me, having learned so much by it as to 
be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could 
not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experi- 
ments while the intention of making the experiment was fresh 
and warm in my mind. My father at last fixed upon the cutler's 
trade, and my uncle Benjamin's son, Samuel, who was bred to that 
business in London, being about that time established in Boston, 
I was sent to be with him some time on liking. But his expecta- 

1 Aged. 

2 A joiner is a mechanic who does the woodwork of houses, etc. ; a turner, 
one who works with a lathe; a brasier, a worker in brass. 



26 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tions of a fee with me displeasing my father, I was taken home 
again. 

From a child I w^as fond of reading, and all the little money 
that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased 
with the '' Pilgrim's Progress," my first collection was of John 
Banyan's works in separate little volumes. I afterward sold them 
to enable me to buy R. Burton's '^ Historical Cohections;" they 
were small chapmen's ^ books, and cheap, forty or fifty in all. ]\Iy 
father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divin- 
ity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted that, at 
a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books 
had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved I should not 
be a clergyman. '^ Plutarch's Lives " there w^as, in which I read 
abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. 
There was also a book of Defoe's called an '' Essay on Projects," 
and another of Dr. Mather's called '' Essays to Do Good," which 
perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some 
of the principal future events of my life. 

This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make 
me a printer, though he had already one son (James) of that pro- 
fession. In 1 71 7 my brother James returned from England with 
a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I Hked it 
much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for 
the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an inclina- 
tion, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. 
I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded and signed the 
indentures ^ when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to ser\'e 
as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to 
be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year. In a little 
time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a use- 
ful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An 
acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me some- 

1 A chapman was a peddler. 

2 Agreements written upon sheets, the edges of which were cut or indented 
to match each other, for security and identification. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 27 

times to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon 
and clean. Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part 
of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to 
be returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted. 

And after some time an ingenious tradesman, Mr. Matthew 
Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, and who frequented 
our printing house, took notice of me, invited me to his library, 
and very kindly lent me such books as I chose to read. I now 
took a fancy to poetry, and made some little pieces ; my brother, 
thinking it might turn to account, encouraged me, and put me 
on composing occasional ballads. One was called " The Light- 
house Tragedy," and contained an account of the drowning of 
Captain Worthilake with his two daughters ; the other was a sailor's 
song on the taking of Teach (or Blackbeard), the pirate. They 
were wretched stuff, in the Grub Street ^ ballad style ; and when 
they were printed he sent me about the town to sell them. The 
first sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great 
noise. This flattered my vanity ; but my father discouraged me 
by ridicuhng my performances and telling me verse makers were 
generally beggars. So I escaped being a poet, most probably a 
very bad one ; but as prose writing has been of great use to me in 
the course of my life, and was a principal means of my advance- 
ment, I shall tell you how, in such a situation, I acquired what 
little ability I have in that way. 

There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by 
name, with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes 
disputed, and very fond we were of argument and very desirous 
of confuting each other ; which disputatious turn, by the way, is 
apt to become a very bad habit,^ making people often extremely 
disagreeable in company by the contradiction that is necessary to 
bring it into practice ; and thence, besides souring and spoiling 

1 A street in London in which many writers of small ability or reputation, 
or of unhappy fortune, had lodgings. '' Grub Street style," therefore, means 
poor or worthless in literary value. The term, which always implied a sneer, 
was made current by Pope and Swift and their coterie. 



28 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the conversation, is productive of disgusts and perhaps enmities 
where you may have occasion for friendship. I had caught it 
by reading my father's books of dispute about rehgion. Persons 
of good sense, I have since observed, seldom fall into it, except 
lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that have been bred 
at Edinburgh. 

A question was once, somehow or other, started between Col- 
hns and me, of the propriety of educating the female sex in learn- 
ing, and their abihties for study. He was of opinion that it was 
improper, and that they were naturally unequal to it. I took the 
contrary side, perhaps a little for dispute's sake. He was natu- 
rally more eloquent, had a ready plenty of words, and sometimes, 
as I thought, bore me down more by his fluency than by the 
strength of his reasons. As we parted without settling the point, 
and were not to see each other again for some time, I sat down 
to put my arguments in writing, w^hich I copied fair and sent to 
him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a 
side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers and 
read them. Without entering into the discussion, he took occa- 
sion to talk to me about the manner of my writing. He observed 
that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct 
spelHng and pointing (which I owed to the printing house), I fell 
far short in elegance of expression, in method, and in perspicuity, 
of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the jus- 
tice of his remarks, and thence grew more attentive to the manner 
in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement. 

About this time I met with an odd volume of the '' Spectator." ^ 
It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought 
It, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I 
thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. 
With this view, I took some of the papers, and, making short hints 

1 A paper published in London every week day from the ist of March, 
1711, to the 6th of December, 1712, and made up for the most part of essays 
by Addison, Steele, and their friends. It held aloof from politics, and dealt 
with the manners of the time and with literature. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 29 

of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and 
then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers 
again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully 
as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should 
come to hand. Then I compared my " Spectator " with the orig- 
inal, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I 
found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting 
and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before 
that time if I had gone on making verses ; since the continual 
occasion for words of the same import, but of different length to 
suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have 
laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and 
also have tended to fix that variety in my mind and make me mas- 
ter of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them 
into verse ; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten 
the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled 
my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks en- 
deavored to reduce them into the best order before I began to 
form the full sentences and complete the paper. This was to teach 
me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my 
work afterward with the original, I discovered many faults and 
amended them ; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying 
that in certain particulars of small import I had been lucky 
enough to improve the method or the language, and this encour- 
aged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable 
English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time 
for these exercises and for reading was at night after work, or 
before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived 
to be in the printing house alone, evading as much as I could the 
common attendance on public worship, which my father used to 
exact of me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still 
thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford 
time to practice it. 

When about sixteen years of age I happened to meet with a 
book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I 



30 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did 
not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another 
family. My refusal to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and 
I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself ac- 
quainted with Tryon's manner of preparing some of his dishes, 
such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few 
others, and then proposed to my brother that if he would give 
me weekly half the money he paid for my board I would board 
myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I 
could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund 
for buying books. But I had another advantage in it. My 
brother and the rest going from the printing house to their meals, 
I remained there alone, and, dispatching presently my light re- 
past, which often was no more than a biscuit or a slice of bread, 
a handful of raisins, or a tart from the pastry cook's, and a glass 
of water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in 
which I made the greater progress from that greater clearness of 
head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance 
in eating and drinking. 

And now it was that, being on some occasion made ashamed 
of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning 
when at school, I took Cocker's book of arithmetic, and went 
through the whole by myself with great ease. I also read Seller's 
and Shermy's books of navigation, and became acquainted with 
the little geometry they contain, but never proceeded far in that 
science. And I read about this time Locke '' On the Human 
Understanding," and the '' Art of Thinking," by Messrs. du Port 
Royal.i 

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an 
English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which 
there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, 
the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic 

1 These gentlemen of Port Royal lived in the old convent of Port Royal 
des Champs, near Paris. They were learned men who, with other works, 
prepared schoolbooks, among which was the ** Art of Thinking," a logic. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 31 

method;^ and soon after I procured Xenophon's ''Memorable 
Things of Socrates," wherein there are many instances of the same 
method. I was charmed with it, adopted it, dropped mxy abrupt 
contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the hum- 
ble inquirer and doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftes- 
bury and Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our re- 
ligious doctrine, I found this method safest for myself and very 
embarrassing to those against whom I used it. Therefore I took 
a dehght in it, practiced it continually, and grew very artful and 
expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into con- 
cessions the consequences of w^hich they did not foresee, entan- 
gling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate 
themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my 
cause always deserved. 

I continued this method some few years, but gradually left it, 
retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest 
diffidence ; never using, when I advanced anything that may pos- 
sibly be disputed, the words ''certainly," "undoubtedly," or any 
others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion ; but rather 
saying, " I conceive " or " apprehend " a thing to be so and so ; 
" it appears to me," or " I should think it so or so," for such and 
such reasons ; or " I imagine it to be so ; " or " it is so, if I am 
not mistaken." This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage 
to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and 
persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time 
engaged in promoting ; and, as the chief ends of conversation are 
to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well- 
meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good 
by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends 
to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for 
which speech was given to us, — to wit, giving or receiving informa- 
tion or pleasure. For if you would inform, a positive and dogmat- 

1 '' The Socratic method," i.e., the method of. modest questioning, which 
Socrates used with pupils and opponents alike, and by which he led them to 
concessions and unforeseen conclusions. 



32 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contra- 
diction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information 
and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the 
same time express yourself as firmly fixed in your present opinions, 
modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably 
leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by 
such a manner you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in 
pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you 
desire. Pope says judiciously : 

** Men must be taught as if you taught them not, 
And things unknown propos'd as things forgot;'* 

further recommending to us to 

*' Speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence." 

And he might have coupled w^ith this line that which he has 
coupled with another, I think, less properly : 

*^ For want of modesty is want of sense.'' 

If you ask why less properly, I must repeat the lines : 

** Immodest words admit of no defense, 
For want of modesty is want of sense." 1 

Now, is not " want of sense " (where a man is so unfortunate as 
to want it) some apology for his '' want of modesty? " and would 
not the lines stand more justly thus? 

" Immodest words admit hit this defense, 
That want of modesty is want of sense. " 

This, however, I should submit to better judgments. 

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. 
It was the second that appeared in America, and was called the 
'' New England Courant." 2 The only one before it was the '' Bos- 

1 These lines are not Pope's, but Lord Roscommon's, slightly modified. 

2 '' The New England Courant was the fourth newspaper that appeared in 
America. The first number of the Boston News-Letter was published April 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Z?> 

ton News-Letter." I remember his being dissuaded by some of 
his friends from the undertaking, as not Hkely to succeed, one 
newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for America. At 
this time (1771) there are not less than five and twenty. He went 
on, however, with the undertaking, and after having worked in 
composing the types and printing off the sheets, I was employed 
to carry the papers through the streets to the customers. 

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amused 
themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gained it 
credit and made it more in demand ; and these gentlemen often 
visited us. Hearing their conversations and their accounts of 
the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to 
try my hand among them ; but, being still a boy, and suspecting 
that my brother would object to printing anything of mine in his 
paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, 
and, wTiting an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the 
door of the printing house. It was found in the morning, and 
communicated to his writing friends when they called in as usual. 
They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the ex- 
quisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, 
in their different guesses at the author, none were named but men 
of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I sup- 
pose now that I was rather lucky in my judges, and that per- 
haps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteemed 
them. 

Encouraged, however, by this, I wrote and conveyed in the 
same way to the press several more papers, which were equally 
approved ; and I kept my secret till my small fund of sense for 
such performances was pretty well exhausted, and then I dis- 

24, 1704. This was the first newspaper in America. The Boston Gazette 
commenced Dec. 21, 1719; the American Weekly Mercury, at Philadelphia, 
Dec. 22, 1719; the New England Courant, Aug. 21, 1721. Dr. Franklin's 
error of memory probably originated in the circumstance of his brother having 
been the printer of the Boston Gazette when it was first established. This 
was the second newspaper published in America." — Sparks. 



34 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

covered ^ it, when I began to be considered a little more by my 
brother's acquaintance, and in a manner that did not quite please 
him, as he thought, probably with reason, that it tended to make 
me too vain. And perhaps this might be one occasion of the 
differences that we began to have about this time. Though a 
brother, he considered himself as my master and me as his ap- 
prentice, and accordingly expected the same services from me as 
he would from another, while I thought he demeaned ^ me too 
much in some he required of me, who from a brother expected 
more indulgence. Our disputes were often brought before our 
father, and I fancy I was either generally in the right or else a 
better pleader, because the judgment was generally in my favor. 
But my brother was passionate, and had often beaten me, which 
I took extremely amiss ; and, thinking my apprenticeship very 
tedious, I was continually washing for some opportunity of short- 
ening it, which at length offered in a manner unexpected. 

One of the pieces in our newspaper, on some political point 
which I have now forgotten, gave offense to the Assembly.^ He 
was taken up, censured, and imprisoned for a month, by the 
Speaker's warrant, I suppose, because he would not discover his 
author. I, too, was taken up and examined before the council ; 
but, though I did not give them any satisfaction, they contented 
themselves with admonishing me, and dismissed me, considering 
me, perhaps, as an apprentice, who was bound to keep his mas- 
ter's secrets. 

During my brother's confinement, which I resented a good deal, 
notwithstanding our private differences, I had the management of 
the paper ; and I made bold to give our rulers some rubs in it, 
which my brother took very kindly, while others began to con- 
sider me in an unfavorable hght, as a young genius that had a 
turn for libeling and satire. My brother's discharge was accom- 
panied with an order of the House (a very odd one) that James 
Franklin should no longer print the paper called the '^ New Eng- 
land Courant." 

1 Tcld. 2 Lowered ; put down. "^ 3 The legislature. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 35 

■ There was a consultation held in our printing house among his 
friends what he should do in this case. Some proposed to evade 
the order by changing the name of the paper; but my brother 
seeing inconveniences in that, it was finally concluded on, as a 
better way, to let it be printed for the future under the name of 
Benjamin Franklin; and to avoid the censure of the Assembly 
that might fall on him as still printing it by his apprentice, the 
contrivance was that my old indenture should be returned to me, 
with a full discharge on the back of it, to be shown on occasion ; 
but to secure to him the benefit of my service I was to sign new 
indentures for the remainder of the term, which were to be kept 
private. A very flimsy scheme it was ; however, it was immedi- 
ately executed, and the paper went on accordingly under my 
name for several months. 

At length, a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, 
I took upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would 
not venture to produce the new indentures. It was not fair in 
me to take this advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the 
first errata ^ of my life ; but the unfairness of it weighed little with 
me when under the impressions of resentment for the blows his 
passion too often urged him to bestow upon me, though he was 
otherwise not an ill-natured man. Perhaps I was too saucy and 
provoking. 

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent 
my getting employment in any other printing house of the town, 
by going round and speaking to every master, who accordingly 
refused to give me work. I then thought of going to New York, 
as the nearest place where there was a printer ; and I was rather 
inclined to leave Boston when I reflected that I had already 
made myself a little obnoxious to the governing party, and, from 
the arbitrary proceedings of the Assembly in my brother's case, 
it was likely I might, if I stayed, soon bring myself into scrapes ; 
and, further, that my indiscreet disputations about religion began 
to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel 
1 Errors; mistakes. 



36 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

or atheist. I determined on the point, but, my father now siding 
with my brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted to go openly, 
means would be used to prevent me. My friend Collins, there- 
fore, undertook to manage a httle for me. He agreed with the 
captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under the notion of 
my being a young acquaintance of his that had got into trouble, 
and therefore I could not appear or come away publicly. So I 
sold some of my books to raise a little money, was taken on board 
privately, and, as we had a fair wind, in three days I found my- 
self in New York, near three hundred miles from home, a boy 
of but seventeen, without the least recommendation to, or knowl- 
edge of, any person in the place, and with very little money in 
my pocket. 



§ 2. SEEKS HIS FORTUNE. 

MY inclinations for the sea were by this time worn out, or I 
might now have gratified them. But, having a trade, and 
supposing myself a pretty good workman, I offered my service to 
the printer in the place, old Mr. William Bradford, who had been 
the first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed from thence upon 
the quarrel of George Keith. He could give me no employment, 
having little to do and help enough already ; but says he, '' My 
son at Philadelphia has lately lost his principal hand, Aquila 
Rose, by death ; if you go thither I believe he may employ you.'* 
Philadelphia was a hundred miles farther ; I set out, however, in 
a boat for Amboy, leaving my chest and things to follow me 
round by sea. 

In crossing the bay we met with a squall that tore our rotten 
sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill,i and drove us 
upon Long Island. In our way, a drunken Dutchman, who was 
a passenger too, fell overboard. When he was sinking, I reached 

1 Kill von Kull, the strait between Staten Island and New Jersey. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 37 

through the water to his shock pate, and drew him up so that we 
got him in again. His ducking sobered him a httle, and he went 
to sleep, taking first out of his pocket a book, which he desired 
I would dry for him. It proved to be my old favorite author, 
Bunyan's '' Pilgrim's Progress," in Dutch, finely printed on good 
paper, with copper cuts, a dress better than I had ever seen it 
wear in its own language. I have since found that it has been 
translated into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it 
has been more generally read than any other book, except, per- 
haps, the Bible. Honest John ^ was the first that I know of who 
mixed narration and dialogue ; a method of writing very engaging 
to the reader, who in the most interesting parts finds himself, as 
it were, brought into the company and present at the discourse. 
Defoe ^ in his*' Crusoe," his *^ Moll Flanders," " ReHgious Court- 
ship," " Family Instructor," and other pieces, has imitated it with 
success ; and Richardson has done the same in his " Pamela," etc. 
When we drew near the island we found it was at a place where 
there could be no landing, there being a great surf on the stony 
beach. So we dropped anchor, and swung round toward the 
shore. Some people came down to the water edge and hallooed 
to us, as we did to them ; but the wind was so high and the surf 
so loud that we could not hear so as to understand each other. 
There were canoes on the shore, and we made signs, and hallooed 
that they should fetch us ; but they either did not understand us 
or thought it impracticable, so they went away, and night com- 
ing on, we had no remedy but to wait till the wind should abate. 
In the mean time, the boatman and I concluded to sleep if we 
could, and so crowded into the scuttle with the Dutchman, who 
was still wet, and the spray beating over the head of our boat 
leaked through to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he. 
In this manner we lay all night, with very little rest ; but the wind 
abating the next day, we made a shift to reach Amboy before 
night, having been thirty hours on the water, without victuals, or any 
drink but a bottle of filthy rum, the water we sailed on being salt. 
1 That is, John Bunyan, the author of the book. 



3^ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

In the evening I found myself very feverish, and went in to 
bed ; but, having read somewhere that cold water, drunk plenti- 
fully, was good for a fever, I followed the prescription, sweat 
plentifully most of the night, my fever left me, and in the morn- 
ing, crossing the ferry, I proceeded on my journey on foot, hav- 
ing fifty miles to Burlington,^ where I was told I should find boats 
that would carry me the rest of the way to Philadelphia. 

It rained very hard all the day. I was thoroughly soaked, and 
by noon a good deal tired, so I stopped at a poor inn, where I 
stayed all night, beginning now to wish that I had never left home. 
I cut so miserable a figure, too, that I found, by the questions 
asked me, I was suspected to be some runaway servant and in 
danger of being taken up on that suspicion. However, I pro- 
ceeded the next day, and got in the evening to an inn, within 
eight or ten miles of BurHngton, kept by one Dr. Brown. He 
entered into conversation with me while I took some refreshment, 
and, finding I had read a little, became very sociable and friendly. 
Our acquaintance continued as long as he lived.^ He had been, 
I imagine, an itinerant doctor ; for there was no town in England, 
or country in Europe, of which he could not give a very particu- 
lar account. He had some letters,- and was ingenious, but much 
of an unbeliever, and wickedly undertook, some years after, to 
travesty the Bible in doggerel verse, as Cotton had done Virgil. 
By this means he set many of the facts in a very ridiculous light, 
and might have hurt weak minds if his work had been published ; 
but it never was. 

At his house I lay that night, and the next morning reached 
Burlington, but had the mortification to find that the regular boats j" 
were gone a little before my coming, and no other expected to 
go before Tuesday, this being Saturday ; wherefore I returned to 
an old woman in the town of whom I had bought gingerbread to 
eat on the water, and asked her advice. She invited me to lodge I 
at her house till a passage by water should offer ; and, being tired I 
with my foot traveling, I accepted the invitation. She, under- 
1 In New Jersey 2 Learning. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 39 

Standing I was a printer, would have had me stay at that town 
and follow my business, being ignorant of the stock necessary to 
begin with. She was very hospitable, gave me a dinner of ox 
cheek with great good will, accepting only of a pot of ale in re- 
turn; and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come. 
However, walking in the evening by the side of the river, a boat 
came by, which I found was going toward Philadelphia, with sev- 
eral people in her. They took me in, and, as there was no wind, we 
rowed all the way, and about midnight, not having yet seen the 
city, some of the company were confident w^e must have passed 
it, and would row no farther. The others knew not where we 
were ; so we put toward the shore, got into a creek, and landed 
near an old fence, with the rails of which we made a fire, the 
night being cold, in October, and there w^e remained till daylight. 
Then one of the company knew the place to be Cooper's Creek, 
a little above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out 
of the creek, and arrived there about eight or nine o'clock on the 
Sunday morning, and landed at the Market Street wharf. 

I have been the more particular in this description of my jour- 
ney, and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may 
in your mind com±pare such unlikely beginnings with the figure 
I have since made there. I was in my working dress, my best 
clothes being to come round by sea. I was dirty. from my jour- 
ney ; my pockets were stuffed out with shirts and stockings, and 
I knew no soul, nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued 
with traveling, rowing, and want of rest ; I was very hungry ; and 
my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar and about a 
shilling in copper.^ The latter I gave the people of the boat for 
my passage, who at first refused it, on account of my rowing ; but 
I insisted on their taking it, a man being sometimes more gen- 
erous when he has but a little money than when he has plenty, 
perhaps through fear of being thought to have but little. 

Then I walked up the street, gazing about, till near the market 

1 English penny pieces. The coin money used by the colonists was at 
this time of foreign make. 



40 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

house I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on 
bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the 
baker's he directed me to, in Second Street, and asked for biscuit, 
intending such as we had in Boston; but they, it seems, were 
not made in Philadelphia. Then I asked for a threepenny loaf, 
and was told they had none such. So not considering or know- 
ing the difference of money and the greater cheapness, nor the 
names of his bread, I bade him give me threepenny worth of any 
sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was 
surprised at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my 
pockets, walked off with a roll under each arm, and eating the 
other. Thus I went up Market Street as far as Fourth Street, 
passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father ; when 
she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I cer- 
tainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then I turned 
and went down Chestnut Street and part of Walnut Street, eat- 
ing my roll all the way, and, coming round, found myself again 
at Market Street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went 
for a draught of the river water ; and, being filled with one of my 
rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that came 
down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go farther. 

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this 
time had many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking 
the same way. I joined them, and thereby was led into the great 
meetinghouse of the Quakers near the market.^ I sat down 
among them, and, after looking round awhile and hearing noth- 
ing said, being very drowsy through labor and want of rest the 
preceding night, I fell fast asleep, and continued so till the meet- 
ing broke up, when one was kind enough to rouse me. This was, 
therefore, the first house I was in, or slept in, in Philadelphia. 

Walking down again toward the river, and looking in the faces 
of people, I met a young Quaker man, whose countenance I liked, 
and, accosting him, requested he would tell me where a stranger 
could get lodging. We were then near the sign of the Three 

1 This market stood on the southwest corner of Second and Market Streets, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 41 

Mariners. " Here,'* says he, '' is one place that entertains stran- 
gers, but it is not a reputable house ; if thee wilt walk with me I'll 
show thee a better." He brought me to the Crooked Billet, in 
Water Street. Here I got a dinner, and while I was eating it 
several sly questions were asked me, as it seemed to be suspected 
from my youth and appearance that I might be some runaw^ay. 

After dinner my sleepiness returned ; and, being shown to a 
bed, I lay down without undressing and slept till six in the even- 
ing, was called to supper, went to bed again very early, and slept 
soundly till next morning. Then I made myself as tidy as I 
could, and went to Andrew Bradford the printer's. I found in 
the shop the old man, his father, whom I had seen at New York, 
and who, traveling on horseback, had got to Philadelphia before 
me. He introduced me to his son, who received me civilly, and 
gave me a breakfast, but told me he did not at present want a 
hand, being lately supplied with one ; but there was another printer 
in town, lately set up, one Keimer, who, perhaps, might employ 
me ; if not, I should be vv^elcome to lodge at his house, and he 
would give me a little work to do now and then till fuller business 
should offer. 

The old gentleman said he would go with me to the new 
printer ; and when we found him, " Neighbor," says Bradford, " I 
have brought to see you a young man of your business ; perhaps 
you may want such a one." He asked me a fev/ questions, put 
a composing stick ^ in my hand to see how I worked, and then 
said he would employ me soon, though he had just then nothing 
for me to do ; and, taking old Bradford, whom he had never seen 
before, to be one of the townspeople that had a good will for him, 
he entered into a conversation on his present undertaking and 
prospects ; while Bradford, not discovering that he was the other 
printer's father, on Keimer's saying he expected soon to get the 
greatest part of the business into his own hands, drew him on by 

1 A composing stick is a small tray which the com.positor holds in his left 
hand and in which he arranges the type that he picks out of the cases with his 
right hand, 



42 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

artful questions, and starting little doubts, to explain all his views, 
what interest he rehed on, and in what manner he intended to pro- 
ceed. I, who stood by and heard all, saw immediately that one 
of them was a crafty old sophister,^ and the other a mere novice. 
Bradford left me with Keimer, who was greatly surprised when I 
told him who the old man was. 

Keimer's printing house, I found, consisted of an old shattered 
press and one small, worn-out font of English,^ which he was 
then using himself, composing an elegy on Aquila Rose, before 
mentioned, an ingenious young man of excellent character, much 
respected in the town, clerk of the Assembly, and a pretty poet. 
Keimer made verses too, but very indifferently. He could not 
be said to write them, for his manner was to compose them in the 
types, directly out of his head. So, there being no copy,^ but one 
pair of cases, and the elegy Hkely to require all the letter, no one 
could help him. I endeavored to put his press (which he had not 
yet used and of which he understood nothing) into order fit to 
be worked with ; and, promising to come and print off his elegy 
as soon as he should have got it ready, I returned to Bradford's, 
who gave me a little job to do for the present, and there I lodged 
and dieted. -^ A few days after Keimer sent for me to print off 
the elegy. And now he had got another pair of cases, and a 
pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work. 

These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business. 
Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and 
Keimer, though something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, 
knowing nothing of press work. He had been one of the French 
prophets,^ and could act their enthusiastic agitations. At this 
time he did not profess any particular religion, but something of 

1 A false reasoner, and hence a deceiver. 

2 The name of a kind of type. 

3 Manuscript or printing of original matter. ^ Boarded. 

5 The Camisards, who broke away from the state rehgion of France, and 
suffered persecution at the hands of Louis XIV. They showed their spirit- 
ual zeal by the prophetic mania and by working miracles, as well as by a 
stout attachment to their creed. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 43 

all on occasion, was very ignorant of the world, and had, as I 
afterward found, a good deal of the knave in his composition. 
He did not like my lodging at Bradford's while I worked with 
him. He had a house, indeed, but without furniture, so he could 
not lodge me ; but he got me a lodging at Mr. Read's, before 
mentioned, who was the owner of his house ; and, my chest and 
clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respect- 
able appearance in the eyes of Miss Read than I had done when 
she first happened to see me eating my roll in the street. 

I began now to have some acquaintance among the young peo- 
ple of the town that were lovers of reading, with whom I spent 
my evenings very pleasantly ; and, gaining money by my industry 
and frugality, I lived very agreeably, forgetting Boston as much 
as I could, and not desiring that any there should know where I 
resided, except my friend Collins, who was in my secret and kept 
it when I wrote to him. At length an incident happened that 
sent me back again much sooner than I had intended. I had a 
brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, master of a sloop that traded be- 
tween Boston and Delaware. He being at Newcastle, forty miles 
below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and wrote me a letter, men- 
tioning the concern of my friends in Boston at my abrupt depar- 
ture, assuring me of their good will to me and that everything 
would be accommodated to my mind if I would return, to which 
he exhorted me very earnestly. I wrote an answer to his letter, 
thanked him for his advice, but stated my reasons for quitting 
Boston fully and in such a light as to convince him I was not so 
wrong as he had apprehended. 

Sir Wilham Keith, governor of the province, was then at New- 
castle ; and Captain Holmes, happening to be in company with 
him when my letter camiC to hand, spoke to him of me and showed 
him the letter. The governor read it, and seemed surprised when 
he was told my age. He said I appeared a young man of prom- 
ising parts, and therefore should be encouraged ; the printers at 
Philadelphia were wretched ones ; and, if I would set up there, 
he made no doubt I should succeed ; for his part, he would pro- 



44 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

cure me the public business, and do me every other service in his 
power. This my brother-in-law afterward told me in Boston, 
but I knew as yet nothing of it when, one day, Keimer and I 
being at work together near the window, we saw the governor 
and another gentleman (which proved to be Colonel French of 
Newcastle), finely dressed, come directly across the street to our 
house, and heard them at the door. 

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him ; but 
the governor inquired for me, came up, and with a condescension 
and politeness I had been quite unused to, made me many com- 
pliments, desired to be acquainted with me, blamed me kindly for 
not having made myself known to him when I first came to the 
place, and would have me away with him to the tavern, where he 
was going with Colonel French to taste, as he said, some excellent 
Madeira. I was not a little surprised, and Keimer stared hke a 
pig poisoned. I went, however, with the governor and Colonel 
French to a tavern at the corner of Third Street, and over the 
Madeira he proposed my setting up my business, laid before me 
the probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel French as- 
sured me I should have their interest and influence in procuring 
the public business of both governments.^ On my doubting 
whether my father w^ould assist me in it, Sir William said he would 
give me a letter to him, in which he would state the advantages, 
and he did not doubt of prevailing with him. So it was concluded 
I should return to Boston in the first vessel, with the governor's 
letter recommending me to my father. In the mean time the inten- 
tion was to be kept a secret, and I went on working with Keimer 
as usual, the governor sending for me now and then to dine 
with him, a very great honor I thought it, and conversing with 
me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner imagin- 
able. 

About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offered for Boston. 

I took leave of Keimer as going to see my friends. The governor 

gave me an ample letter, saying many flattering things of me to 

1 ** Both governments," i.e., both Pennsylvania and Delaware. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 45 

my father, and strongly recommending the project of my setting 
up at Philadelphia as a thing that must make my fortune. We 
struck on a shoal in going down the bay, and sprung a leak ; we 
had a blustering time at sea, and were obliged to pump almost 
continually, at v/hich I took my turn. We arrived safe, however, 
at Boston in about a fortnight. I had been absent seven months, 
and my friends had heard nothing of me ; for my brother Holmes 
was not yet returned, and had not ^^Titten about me. My unex- 
pected appearance surprised the family ; all were, however, very 
glad to see me, and made me welcome, except my brother. I 
went to see him at his printing house. I was better dressed than 
ever while in his service, having a genteel new suit from head to 
foot, a watch, and my pockets lined with near ^y^ pounds ster- 
ling in silver. He received me not very frankly, looked me all 
over, and turned to his work again. 

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort 
of a country it was, and how I liked it. I praised it much, and 
the happy life I led in it, expressing strongly my intention of re- 
turning to it ; and one of them asking what kind of money we had 
there, I produced a handful of silver and spread it before them, 
which was a kind of raree-show ^ they had not been used to, paper 
being the money of Boston. Then I took an opportunity of let- 
ting them see my watch ; and lastly (my brother still grum and sul- 
len) I gave them a piece of eight ^ to drink, and took my leave. 
This visit of mine offended him extremely ; for, when my mother 
some time after spoke to him of a reconciliation, and of her wishes 
to see us on good terms together, and that we might live for the 
future as brothers, he said I had insulted him in such a manner 
before his people that he could never forget or forgive it. In 
this, however, he was mistaken. 

My father received the governor's letter with some apparent 
surprise, but said little of it to me for several days, when. Captain 

1 Peep show. 

2 '' Piece of eight," i.e., the Spanish dollar, containing eight reals. The 
present value of a real is about five cents. 



46 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Holmes returning, he showed it to him, asked him if he knew Keith, 
and what kind of man he was, adding his opinion that he must 
be of small discretion to think of setting a boy up in business who 
wanted yet three years of being at man's estate. Holmes said 
what he could in favor of the project, but my father was clear in 
the impropriety of it, and at last gave a flat denial to it. Then he 
wTOte a civil letter to Sir William, thanking him for the patronage 
he had so kindly offered me, but declining to assist me as yet in 
setting up, I being, in his opinion, too young to be trusted with 
the management of a business so important, and for which the 
preparation must be so expensive. 

My friend and companion, Collins, who was a clerk in the post 
office, pleased with the account I gave him of my new country, 
determined to go thither also ; and, while I waited for my father's 
determination, he set out before me by land to Rhode Island, 
leaving his books, which were a pretty collection of mathematics 
and natural philosophy, to come with mine and me to New York, 
where he proposed to wait for me. 

My father, though he did not approve Sir William's proposition, 
was yet pleased that I had been able to obtain so advantageous 
a character from a person of such note where I had resided, and 
that I had been so industrious and careful as to equip myself so 
handsomely in so short a time ; therefore, seeing no prospect of 
an accommodation between my brother and me, he gave his con- 
sent to my returning again to Philadelphia, advised me to behave 
respectfully to the people there, endeavor to obtain the general 
esteem, and avoid lampooning and libeling, to which he thought 
I had too much inclination ; telling me that by steady industry 
and a prudent parsimony I might save enough by the time I was 
one and twenty to set me up ; and that, if I came near the mat- 
ter, he would help me out w^ith the rest. This was all I could 
obtain, except some small gifts as tokens of his and m.y mother's 
love, when I embarked again for New York, now with their ap- 
probation and their blessing. 

The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 47 

brother John, who had been married and settled there some years. 
He received me very affectionately, for he always loved me. A 
friend of his, one Vernon, having some money due to him in 
Pennsylvania, about thirty-five pounds currency, desired I would 
receive it for him, and keep it till I had his directions what to 
remit it in. Accordingly, he gave me an order. This afterward 
occasioned me a good deal of uneasiness. 

At Newport we took in a number of passengers for New York, 
among which were two young women, companions, and a grave, 
sensible, matronlike Quaker woman, with her attendants. I had 
shown an obliging readiness to do her some httle services, which 
impressed her, I suppose, with a degree of good will toward me ; 
therefore, when she saw a daily growing familiarity between me 
and the two young women, which they appeared to encourage, 
she took me aside, and said, ^' Young man, I am concerned for 
thee, as thou hast no friend with thee, and seems not to know 
much of the world, or of the snares youth is exposed to. Depend 
upon it, those are very bad women ; I can see it in all their 
actions ; and if thee art not upon thy guard, they will draw thee 
into some danger. They are strangers to thee, and I advise thee, 
in a friendly concern for thy welfare, to have no acquaintance 
with them." As I seemed at first not to think so ill of them as 
she did, she mentioned some things she had observed and heard 
that had escaped my notice, but now convinced me she was right. 
I thanked her for her kind advice, and promised to follow it. 
When we arrived at New York, they told me where they lived, 
and invited me to come and see them ; but I avoided it, and it 
was well I did ; for the next day the captain missed a silver spoon 
and some other things, that had been taken out of his cabin, and 
he got a warrant to search their lodgings, found the stolen goods, 
and had the thieves punished. So, though we had escaped a 
sunken rock, which we scraped upon in the passage, I thought this, 
escape of rather more importance to me. 

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arrived there 
some time before me. We had been intimate from children, and 



48 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

had read the same books together; but he had the advantage of 
more time for reading and studying, and a wonderful genius for 
mathematical learning, in which he far outstripped me. While I 
lived in Boston most of my hours of leisure for conversation were 
spent with him, and he continued a sober as well as an industrious 
lad, was much respected for his learning by several of the clergy 
and other gentlemen, and seemed to promise making a good fig- 
ure in Hfe. But, during my absence, he had acquired a habit of 
sotting with brandy ; and I found, by his own account, and w^hat 
I heard from others, that he had been drunk every day since his 
arrival at New York, and behaved very oddly. He had gamed, 
too, and lost his money, so that I was obliged to discharge his 
lodgings, and defray his expenses to and at Philadelphia, which 
proved extremely inconvenient to me. 

The then governor of New York, Burnet (son of Bishop Bur- 
net), hearing from the captain that a young man, one of his pas- 
sengers, had a great many books, desired he would bring me to 
see him. I waited upon him accordingly, and should have taken 
Collins with me but that he was not sober. The governor treated 
me with great civility, showed me his library, which was a very 
large one, and we had a good deal of conversation about books 
and authors. This was the second governor who had done me 
the honor to take notice of me ; which, to a poor boy like me, 
was very pleasing. 

We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the way Vernon's 
money, without which we could hardly have finished our journey. 
Collins wished to be employed in some countinghouse ; but, 
whether they discovered his dramming by his breath or by his 
behavior, though he had some recommendations he met with no 
success in any application, and continued lodging and boarding 
at the same house with me and at my expense. Knowing I had 
that money of Vernon's, he was continually borrowing of me, still 
promising repayment as soon as he should be in business. At 
length he had got so much of it that I was distressed to think 
what I should do in case of being called on to remit it. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 49 

His drinking continued, about which we sometimes quarreled ; 
for, when a little intoxicated, he was very fractious. Once, in a 
boat on the Delaware with some other young men, he refused to 
row in his turn. '' I will be rowed home," says he. '^ We will not 
row you,'* says I. '' You must, or stay all night on the water," 
says he; ''just as you please." The others said, ''Let us row; 
what signifies it? " But, my mind being soured with his other 
conduct, I continued to refuse. So he swore he would make 
me row, or throw me overboard ; and coming along, stepping on 
the thwarts,! toward me, when he came up and struck at me I 
clutched him, and, rising, pitched him headforemost into the river. 
I knew he was a good swimmer, and so was under little concern 
about him ; but before he could get round to lay hold of the boat, 
we had with a few strokes pulled her out of his reach ; and ever 
when he drew near the boat, we asked if he would row, striking 
a few strokes to slide her away from him. He was ready to die 
with vexation, and obstinately would not promise to row. How- 
ever, seeing him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in and 
brought him home dripping wet in the evening. We hardly ex- 
changed a civil word afterward, and a West India captain, who 
had a commission to procure a tutor for the sons of a gentleman 
at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him, agreed to carry him 
thither. He left me then, promising to remit me the first money 
he should receive in order to discharge the debt ; but I never 
heard of him after. 

The breaking into this money of Vernon's was one of the first 
great errata of my life ; and this affair showed that my father was 
not much out in his judgment when he supposed me too young 
to manage business of importance. But Sir William, on reading 
his letter, said he was too prudent. There was great difference 
in persons, and discretion did not always accompany years, nor 
was youth always without it. "And since he will not set you 
up," says he, " I will do it myself. Give me an inventory of the 
things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them. 
1 The seats across the boat on which the oarsmen sit. 



50 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

You shall repay me when you are able ; I am resolved to have a 
good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed." This was 
spoken with such an appearance of cordiality that I had not the 
least doubt of his meaning what he said. I had hitherto kept the 
proposition of my setting up a secret in Philadelphia, and I still 
kept it. Had it been known that I depended on the governor, 
probably some friend that knew him better would have advised 
me not to rely on him, as I afterward heard it as his known 
character to be liberal of promises which he never meant to keep. 
Yet, unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his gener- 
ous offers insincere? I believed him one of the best men in the 
world.^ 

I presented him an inventory of a little printing house, amount- 
ing, by my computation, to about one hundred pounds sterHng. 
He liked it, but asked me if my being on the spot in England to 
choose the types, and see that everything was good of the kind, 
might not be of some advantage. '^ Then," says he, "' when there 
you may make acquaintances, and estabhsh correspondences in 
the bookselUng and stationery way." I agreed that this might 
be advantageous. '' Then," says he, '' get yourself ready to go 
with Annis,''2 which was the annual ship, and the only one at 
that time usually passing between London and Philadelphia. But 
it would be some months before Annis sailed, so I continued work- 
ing with Keimer, fretting about the money CoUins had got from 
me, and in daily apprehensions of being called upon by Vernon ; 
which, however, did not happen for some years after. 

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage 
from Boston, being becalmed off Block Island, our people set 
about catching cod, and hauled up a good many. Hitherto I had 
stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food ; and on this oc- 
casion I considered, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish 
as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever 
could, do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this 

1 For Governor Keith's character and popularity, see p. 58. 

2 Captain Annis, commander of the ship, is here referred to. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 51 

seemed very reasonable ; but I had formerly been a great lover 
of fish, and when this came hot out of the frying pan it smelled 
admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and in- 
clination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw 
smaller fish taken out of their stomachs ; then thought I, ^^ If you 
eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you." So I dined 
upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, 
returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So 
convenient a thing it is to be a '^ reasonable " creature, since it en- 
ables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind 
to do. 

Keimer and I lived on a pretty good, famiHar footing, and 
agreed tolerably well, for he suspected nothing of my setting up. 
He retained a great deal of his old enthusiasms, and loved argu- 
mentation. We therefore had many disputations. I used to 
work him so with my Socratic method, and had trepanned ^ him 
so often by questions apparently so distant from any point we 
had in hand and yet by degrees led to the point, and brought 
him into difiiculties and contradictions, that at last he grew ridic- 
ulously cautious, and would hardly answer me the most common 
question without asking first, ^' What do you intend to infer from 
that ? " However, it gave him so high an opinion of my abiHties 
in the confuting way that he seriously proposed my being his col- 
league in a project he had of setting up a new sect. He was 
to preach the doctrines, and I was to confound all opponents. 
When he came to explain with me upon the doctrines, I found 
several conundrums which I objected to, unless I might have my 
way a little too, and introduce some of mine. 

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere in 
the Mosaic law it is said, '' Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy 
beard." ^ He Hkewise kept the seventh day Sabbath ; and these 
two points were essentials with him. I disliked both, but agreed 
to admit them upon condition of his adopting the doctrine of using 
no animal food. "I doubt," said he, ^'my constitution will not 
1 Entrapped. 2 Lev. xix. 27. 



52 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

bear that.'* I assured him it would, and that he would be better 
for it. He was usually a great glutton, and I promised myself 
some diversion in half starving him. He agreed to try the prac- 
tice if I would keep him company. I did so, and we held it for 
three months. We had our victuals dressed and brought to us 
regularly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had from me a 
Ust of forty dishes, to be prepared for us at different times, in all 
which there was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl ; and the whim suited 
me the better at this time from the cheapness of it, not costing us 
above eighteen pence sterling each per week. I have since kept 
several Lents most strictly, leaving the common diet for that, and 
that for the common, abruptly, without the least inconvenience, so 
that I think there is little in the advice of making those changes 
by easy gradations. I went on pleasantly, but poor Keimer suf- 
fered grievously, tired of the project, longed for the flesh pots of 
Egypt, and ordered a roast pig. He invited me and two women 
friends to dine with him ; but, it being brought too soon upon 
table, he could not resist the temptation, and ate the whole be- 
fore we came. 

I had made some courtship during this time to Miss Read. I 
had a great respect and affection for her, and had some reason 
to believe she had the same for me ; but, as I was about to take 
a long voyage, and we were both very young, — only a little above 
eighteen, — it was thought most prudent by her mother to prevent 
our going too far at present, as a marriage, if it was to take place, 
would be more convenient after my return, when I should be, as 
I expected, set up in my business. Perhaps, too, she thought my 
expectations not so well founded as I imagined them to be. 

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, I 
Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading. The two 
first were clerks to an eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the | 
town, Charles Brogden; the other was clerk to a merchant. 
Watson was a pious, sensible young man, of great integrity ; the I 
others rather more lax in their principles of religion, particularly I 
Ralph, who, as well as Collins, had been unsettled by me, for which I 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 53 

they both made me suffer. Osborne was sensible, candid, frank ; 
sincere and affectionate to his friends, but, in literary matters, too 
fond of criticising. Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, 
and extremely eloquent ; I think I never knew a prettier talker. 
Both of them were great admirers of poetry, and began to try their 
hands in little pieces. Many pleasant walks we four had together 
on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where we read to one 
another and conferred on what we read. 

Ralph was inclined to pursue the study of poetry, not doubting 
but he might become eminent in it, and make his fortune by it, 
alleging that the best poets must, when they first began to write, 
make as many faults as he did. Osborne dissuaded him, assured 
him he had no genius for poetry, and advised him to think of 
nothing beyond the business he was bred to ; that, in the mercan- 
tile way, though he had no stock, he might, by his diligence and 
punctuality, recommend himself to employment as a factor,^ and 
in time acquire wherewith to trade on his own account. I ap- 
proved the amusing one's self with poetry now and then, so far 
as to improve one's language, but no farther. 

On this it was proposed that we should each of us, at our next 
meeting, produce a piece of our own composing, in order to im- 
prove by our mutual observations, criticisms, and corrections. As 
language and expression were what we had in view, we excluded 
all considerations of invention by agreeing that the task should be 
a version of the eighteenth Psalm, which describes the descent of 
Deity. When the time of our meeting grew nigh, Ralph called 
on me first, and let me know his piece was ready. I told him I 
had been busy, and, having little inclination, had done nothing. 
He then showed me his piece for my opinion, and I much ap- 
proved it, as it appeared to me to have great merit. *^ Now," 
says he, ^^ Osborne never will allow the least merit in anything of 
mine, but makes a thousand criticisms out of mere envy. He is 
not so jealous of you ; I wish, therefore, you would take this piece, 
and produce it as yours ; I will pretend not to have had time, and 
1 An agent or commission merchant. 



54 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

SO produce nothing. We shall then see what he will say to it." 
It was agreed, and I immediately transcribed it that it might ap- 
pear in my own hand. 

We met; Watson's performance was read; there were some 
beauties in it, but many defects. Osborne's was read ; it was much 
better ; Ralph did it justice ; remarked some faults, but applauded 
the beauties. He himself had nothing to produce. I was back- 
ward ; seemed desirous of being excused ; had not had sufficient 
time to correct, etc. But no excuse would be admitted ; produce 
I must. It was read and repeated ; Watson and Osborne gave 
up the contest, and joined in applauding it. Ralph only made 
some criticisms, and proposed some amendments ; but I defended 
my text. Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he was no 
better a critic than poet, so he dropped the argument. As they 
two went home together, Osborne expressed himself still more 
strongly in favor of what he thought my production, having re- 
strained himself before, as he said, lest I should think it flattery. 
*' But who would have imagined," said he, ^' that Franklin had 
been capable of such a performance ; such painting, such force, 
such fire! He has even improved the original. In his common 
conversation he seems to have no choice of words ; he hesitates 
and blunders; and yet, good heavens! how he writes!" When 
we next met, Ralph discovered the trick we had played him, and 
Osborne was a little laughed at. 

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a 
poet. I did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued 
scribbHng verses till Pope cured him.^ He became, however, a 
pretty good prose writer. More of him hereafter. But, as I may 

1 In 1728 Alexander Pope published his Dunciad, and in Book III. lines 
165, 166, he refers ta Ralph, who was then living in London: 

" Silence, ye wolves ! while Ralph to Cynthia howls, 
And makes night hideous — answer him, ye owls ! " 

Later, his History of England during the Reigns of King William, Queen 
Anne, and King George I. was highly praised (see pp. 177, 178). 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 55 

not have occasion again to mention the other two, I shall just re- 
mark here that Watson died in my arms a few years after, much 
lamented, being the best of our set. Osborne went to the West 
Indies, where he became an eminent lawyer and made money, 
but died young. He and I had made a serious agreement that 
the one who happened first to die should, if possible, make a 
friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things 
in that separate state. But he never fulfilled his promise. 

The governor, seeming to hke my company, had me frequently 
to his house, and his setting me up was always mentioned as a 
fixed thing. I was to take with me letters recommendatory to a 
number of his friends, besides the letter of credit to furnish me 
with the necessary money for purchasing the press and types, 
paper, etc. For these letters I was appointed to call at different 
times, when they were to be ready ; but a future time was still 
named. Thus he went on till the ship, whose departure, too, had 
been several times postponed, was on the point of sailing. Then, 
when I called to take my leave and receive the letters, his secre- 
tary, Dr. Baird, came out to me and said the governor was ex- 
tremely busy in writing, but would be do\\m at Newcastle before 
the ship, and there the letters would be delivered to me. 

Ralph, though married, and having one child, had determined 
to accompany me on this voyage. It was thought he intended to 
establish a correspondence, and obtain goods to sell on commis- 
sion ; but I found afterward that, through some discontent with 
his wife's relations, he proposed to leave her on their hands, and 
never return again. Having taken leave of my friends, and in- 
terchanged some promises with jMiss Read, I left Philadelphia in 
the ship, which anchored at Newcastle. The governor was there ; 
but when I went to his lodging, the secretary came to me from 
him with the civilest message in the world, that he could not then 
see me, being engaged in business of the utmost importance, but 
should send the letters to me on board, and wished me heartily a 
good voyage and a speedy return, etc. I returned on board a 
little puzzled, but still not doubting. 



56 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



§ 3. FIRST VISIT TO LONDON. 

MR. ANDREW HAMILTON, a famous lawyer of Phila- 
delphia, had taken passage in the same ship for himself and 
son, and with Mr. Denham, a Quaker merchant, and Messrs. Onion 
and Russel, masters of an iron work in Maryland, had engaged 
the great cabin ; so that Ralph and I were forced to take up with 
a berth in the steerage, and, none on board knowing us, were con- 
sidered as ordinary persons. But Mr. Hamilton and his son (it 
was James, since governor) returned from Newcastle to Phila- 
delphia, the father being recalled by a great fee to plead for a 
seized ship ; and, just before we sailed. Colonel French coming 
on board, and showing me great respect, I was more taken notice 
of, and, with my friend Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to 
come into the cabin, there being now room. Accordingly, we 
removed thither. 

Understanding that Colonel French had brought on board the 
governor's dispatches, I asked the captain for those letters that 
were to be put under my care. He said all were put into the bag 
together, and he could not then come at them; but, before we 
landed in England, I should have an opportunity of picking them 
out ; so I was satisfied for the present, and we proceeded on our 
voyage. We had a sociable company in the cabin, and lived un- 
commonly well, having the addition of all Mr. Hamilton's stores, 
who had laid in plentifully. In this passage Mr. Denham con- 
tracted a friendship for me that continued during his life. The 
voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal 
of bad weather. 

When we came into the Channel the captain kept his word with 
me, and gave me an opportunity of examining the bag for the 
governor's letters. I found none upon which my name was put 
as under my care. I picked out six or seven, that, by the hand- 
writing, I thought might be the promised letters, especially as one 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 57 

of them was directed to Basket, the king's printer, and another to 
some stationer. 

We arrived in London the 24th of December, 1724. I waited 
upon the stationer, who came first in my way, dehvering the letter 
as from Governor Keith. '' I don't know such a person," says 
he; but, opening the letter, ''Oh! this is from Riddlesden. I 
have lately found him to be a complete rascal, and I will have 
nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him." So, 
putting the letter into my hand, he turned on his heel and left me, 
to serve some customer. I was surprised to find these were not 
the governor's letters ; and, after recollecting and comparing cir- 
cumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity. I found my friend 
Denham, and opened the whole affair to him. He let me into 
Keith's character ; told me there was not the least probability that 
he had written any letters for me ; that no one who knew him had 
the smallest dependence on him ; and he laughed at the notion 
of the governor's giving me a letter of credit, having, as he said, 
no credit to give. On my expressing some concern about what 
I should do, he advised me to endeavor getting some employment 
in the way of my business. '' Among the printers here," said he, 
" you will improve yourself, and when you return to America you 
will set up to greater advantage." 

We both of us happened to know, as well as the stationer, that 
Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave. He had half ruined 
Miss Read's father by persuading him to be bound ^ for him. By 
this letter it appeared there was a secret scheme on foot to the 
prejudice of Hamilton (supposed to be then coming over with 
us), and that Keith was concerned in it with Riddlesden. Den- 
ham, who was a friend of Hamilton's, thought he ought to be 
acquainted with it; so, when he arrived in England, which was 
soon after, partly from resentment and ill will to Keith and Rid- 
dlesden and partly from good will to him, I waited on him, and 
gave him the letter. He thanked me cordially, the informa- 
tion being of importance to him ;. and from that time he became 
1 Responsible for the payment of a note. 



$8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

my friend, greatly to my advantage afterward on many occa- 
sions. 

But what shall we think of a governor's playing such pitiful 
tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy ! It was 
a habit he had acquired. He wished to please everybody ; and, 
having little to give, he gave expectations. He was otherwise an 
ingenious, sensible man, a pretty good wTiter, and a good gov- 
ernor for the people, though not for his constituents, the proprie- 
taries,! whose instructions he sometimes disregarded. Several of 
our best laws were of his planning, and passed during his admin- 
istration. 

Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We took lodgings 
together in Little Britain ^ at three shilHngs and sixpence a week, 
— as much as we could then afford. He found some relations, 
but they were poor, and unable to assist him. He now let me 
know his intentions of remaining in London, and that he never 
meant to return to Philadelphia. He had brought no money with 
him, the whole he could muster having been expended in pay- 
ing his passage. I had fifteen pistoles j^so he borrowed occasion- 
ally of me to subsist while he was looking out for business. He 
first endeavored to get into the playhouse, believing himself quali- 
fied for an actor ; but Wilkes,^ to whom he applied, advised him 
candidly not to think of that employment, as it was impossible 
he should succeed in it. Then he proposed to Roberts, a pub- 
lisher in Paternoster Row, to write for him a weekly paper hke 
the '' Spectator,'' on certain conditions which Roberts did not ap- 
prove. Then he endeavored to get employment as a hackney 
writer,^ to copy for the stationers and lawyers about the Temple,^ 
but could find no vacancy. 

1 The owners or proprietors of Pennsylvania, which Charles II. had given 
William Penn, were Penn's sons. They lived in England. 

2 A street in London. 

3 A pistole was a Spanish gold coin worth about four dollars. 

4 A comedian of some note. 

5 A hackney writer, or hack writer, is one employed to write according to 
direction. ^ Inns of Court in London, occupied by lawyers, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 59 

I immediately got into work at Palmer's, then a famous printing 
house in Bartholomew Close, and here I continued near a year. 
I was pretty diligent, but spent with Ralph a good deal of my 
earnings in going to plays and other places of amusement. We 
had together consumed all my pistoles, and now just rubbed on 
from hand to mouth. He seemed quite to forget his w^ife and 
child, and I, by degrees, my engagements with Miss Read, to 
whom I never wrote more than one letter, and that was to let her 
know I was not likely soon to return. This was another of the 
great errata of my life, which I should wish to correct if I were 
to live it over again. In fact, by our expenses I was constantly 
kept unable to pay my passage. 

At Palmer's I was employed in composing i for the second edi- 
tion of Wollaston's " Religion of Nature." Some of his reason- 
ings not appearing to me well founded, I wrote a little metaphys- 
ical piece, in which I made remarks on them. It was entitled, 
" Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain." I 
inscribed it to my friend Ralph ; I printed a small number. It 
occasioned my being more considered by Mr. Palmer as a young 
man of some ingenuity, though he seriously expostulated with 
me upon the principles of my pamphlet, which to him appeared 
abominable. My printing this pamphlet was another erratum. 

While I lodged in Little Britain I made an acquaintance with 
one Wilcox, a bookseller, whose shop was at the next door. He 
had an immense collection of secondhand books. Circulating 
libraries were not then in use ; but we agreed that, on certain rea- 
sonable terms, which I have now forgotten, I might take, read, 
and return any of his books. This I esteemed a great advantage, 
and I made as much use of it as I could. 

My pamphlet falling into the hands of one Lyons, a surgeon, 
author of a book entitled '' The Infallibility of Human Judgment," 
it occasioned an acquaintance between us. He took great notice 
of me, called on me often to converse on those subjects, carried 

me to the Horns, a pale-ale house in Lane, Cheapside, and 

1 Setting type. 



6o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the " Fable of the 
Bees," who had a club there, of which he was the soul, being 
a most facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, too, introduced 
me to Dr. Pemberton, at Batson^s Coffee-house, who promised 
to give me an opportunity, some time or other, of seeing Sir 
Isaac Newton, of which I was extremely desirous ; but this never 
happened. 

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the princi- 
pal was a purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire. Sir 
Hans Sloane ^ heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his 
house in Bloomsbury Square, where he showed me all his curios- 
ities, and persuaded me to let him add that to the number, for 
which he paid me handsomely. 

In our house there lodged a young woman, a milliner, who, I 
think, had a shop in the Cloisters. She had been genteelly bred, 
was sensible and hvely, and of most pleasing conversation. Ralph 
read plays to her in the evenings ; they grew intimate ; she took 
another lodging, and he followed her. They lived together some 
time ; but, he being still out of business, and her income not suf- 
ficient to maintain them with her child, he took a resolution of 
going from London to try for a country school, which he thought 
himself well qualified to undertake, as he wrote an excellent hand, 
and was a master of arithmetic and accounts. This, however, 
he deemed a business below him ; and, confident of future better 
fortune, when he should be unwilhng to have it known that he 
once was so meanly employed, he changed his name, and did 
me the honor to assume mine ; for I soon after had a letter from 
him, acquainting me that he was settled in a small village, (in 

i A celebrated physician and naturalist. To him Franklin wrote ; 
*' Sir : Having lately been in the northern parts of America, I have brought 
from thence a purse made of the asbestos, . . . called by the inhabitants ' sala- 
mander cotton. ' As you are noted to be a lover of curiosities, I have informed 
you of this ; and if you have any inclination to purchase or see it, let me know 
your pleasure by a line for me at the Golden Fan, Little Britain, and I will 
wait upon you with it. I am, sir, your most humble servant, 

*' B. Franklin." 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 6l 

Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading and writing to 
ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence each per week,) recommending 

Mrs. T to my care, and desiring me to write to him, directing 

for Mr. Frankhn, Schoolmaster, at such a place. 

He continued to write frequently, sending me large specimens 
of an epic poem which he was then composing, and desiring my 
remarks and corrections. These I gave him from time to time, 
but endeavored rather to discourage his proceeding. One of 
Young's ^ satires was then just published. I copied and sent him 
a great part of it, which set in a strong Hght the folly of pursuing 
the Muses with any hope of advancement by them. All was in 
vain ; sheets of the poem continued to come by every post. 

A breach at last arose between us ; and, when he returned again 
to London, he let me know he thought I had canceled all the 
obligations he had been under to me. So I found I was never to 
expect his repaying me what I lent to him or advanced for him.. 
This, however, was not then of much consequence, as he was 
totally unable ; and in the loss of his friendship I found myself 
relieved from a burden. I now began to think of getting a little 
money beforehand ; and, expecting better work, I left Palmer's to 
work at Watts's, near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a still greater print- 
ing house. Here I continued all the rest of my stay in London. 

At my first admission into this printing house I took to work- 
ing at press, 1 imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had 
been used to in America, where press work is mixed with compos- 
ing. I drank only water ; the other workmen, near fifty in num- 
ber, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I carried up and 
down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others car- 
ried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from tliis 
and several instances, that the '^ Water- American," as they called 
me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We 
had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to sup- 
ply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day 
a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and 
1 This press is now preserved at the Patent Ofhce in Washington. 



62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a 
pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had 
done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom ; but it 
was necessary, he supposed, to drink strong beer that he might be 
strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily 
strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the 
grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it 
was made ; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread ; 
and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it would 
give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, how- 
ever, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every 
Saturday night for that muddling liquor — an expense I was free 
from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under. 

Watts after some weeks desiring to have me in the composing 
room, I left the pressmen ; a new bieti venu^ or sum for drink, 
being five shillings, was demanded of me by the compositors. I 
thought it an imposition, as I had paid below ; the master thought 
so too, and forbade my paying it. I stood out two or three 
weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had 
so many little pieces of private mischief done me, by mixing my 
sorts,2 transposing my pages, breaking my matter, etc., if I were 
ever so little out of the room, and all ascribed to the chapel^ 
ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, 
that, notwithstanding the master's protection, I found myself 
obhged to comply and pay the money, convinced of the folly of 
being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually. 

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquired con- 
siderable influence. I proposed some reasonable alterations in 
their chapel laws, and carried them against all opposition. From 

1 A French expression meaning *' welcome.'' 

2 Pieces in a font of type. 

3 '* A printing house used to be called a chapel by the workmen, and a 
journeyman, on entering a printing house, was accustomed to pay one ot 
more gallons of beer * for the good of the chapel.' " — W. F. Franklin, quoted 
by Bigeiow. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 63 

my example, a great part of them left their muddling breakfast of 
beer and bread and cheese, finding they could with me be sup- 
plied from a neighboring house with a large porringer of hot 
water gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbed with bread, and a bit 
of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, namely, three half- 
pence. This was a more comfortable as well as cheaper break- 
fast, and kept their heads clearer. Those who continued sotting 
with beer all day were often, by not paying, out of credit at the 
alehouse, and used to make interest with me to get beer, their 
'' hght," as they phrased it, '' being out." I watched the pay table 
on Saturday night, and collected what I stood engaged for them, 
having to pay sometimes near thirty shillings a week on their ac- 
counts. This, and my being esteemed a pretty good " riggite," — that 
is, a jocular verbal satirist, — supported my consequence in the so- 
ciety. My constant attendance (I never making a Saint Monday ^) 
recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness 
at composing occasioned my being put upon all work of dis- 
patch, which was generally better paid. So I went on now very 
agreeably. 

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another 
in Duke Street, opposite to the Romish Chapel. It was two pair 
of stairs backward, at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept 
the house ; she had a daughter, and a maidservant, and a journey- 
man who attended the warehouse, but lodged abroad. After 
sending to inquire my character at the house where I last lodged, 
she agreed to take me in at the same rate, three shillings and six- 
pence per week ; cheaper, as she said, from the protection she ex- 
pected in having a man lodge in the house. She was a widow, an 
elderly woman ; had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman's 
daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her hus- 
band, whose memory she much revered ; had Hved much among 
people of distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as 

1 '* Never making," etc., i.e., never making a holiday of Monday. The 
heavy drinkers of Saturday night and Sunday needed Monday to recover 
from their excesses. 



64 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

far back as the time of Charles II. She was lame in her knees 
with the gout, and, therefore, seldom stirred out of her room, so 
sometimes wanted company ; and hers was so highly amusing 
to me that I was sure to spend an evening with her whenever she 
desired it. Our supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very 
little strip of bread and butter, and half a pint of ale between us ; 
but the entertainment was in her conversation. My always keep- 
ing good hours, and giving little trouble in the family, made her 
unwilHng to part with me ; so that, when I talked of a lodging I 
had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings a week, which, 
intent as I now was on saving money, made some difference, she 
bid me not think of it, for she would abate me two shilhngs a 
week for the future ; so I remained with her at one shilling and 
sixpence as long as I stayed in London. 

In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy, 
in the most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this 
account : she was a Roman CathoHc, had been sent abroad when 
young, and lodged in a nunnery with an intent of becoming 
a nun ; but, the country not agreeing with her, she returned to 
England, where, there being no nunnery, she had vowed to lead 
the life of a nun, as near as might be done in those circum- 
stances. Accordingly, she had given all her estate to charitable 
uses, reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on, and out of 
this sum she still gave a great deal in charity, living herself on 
water gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it. She had lived 
many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis 
by successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they 
deemed it a blessing to have her there. A priest visited her to 
confess her every day. '" I have asked her," says my landlady, 
*' how she, as she lived, could possibly find so much employment 
for a confessor." '^ Oh," said she, ''it is impossible to avoid vain 
thoughts." I was permitted once to visit her. She was cheerful 
and polite, and conversed pleasantly. The room was clean, but 
had no other furniture than a mattress, a table with a crucifix and 
book, a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a picture over the 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 65 

chimney of St. Veronica ^ displaying her handkerchief, with the 
miraculous figure of Christ's bleeding face on it, which she ex- 
plained to me with great seriousness. She looked pale, but was 
never sick ; and I give it as another instance on how small an in- 
come life and health may be supported. 

At Watts's printing house I contracted an acquaintance with 
an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy rela- 
tions, had been better educated than most printers,— was a toler- 
able Latinist, spoke French, and loved reading. I taught him 
and a friend of his to swim at twice going into the river, and they 
soon became good swimmers. They introduced me to some gen- 
tlemen from the country, who went to Chelsea ^ by water to see 
the college and Don Saltero's ^ curiosities. In our return, at the 
request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I 
stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea 
to Blackfriar's,^ performing on the way many feats of activity, 
both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those 
to whom they were novelties. 

I had from a child been ever delighted with this exercise, had 
studied and practiced all Thevenot's motions and positions, and 
added some of my own, aiming at the graceful and easy as well as 
the useful. All these I took this occasion of exhibiting to the com- 
pany, and was much flattered by their admiration ; and Wygate, 
who was desirous of becoming a master, grew more and more at- 
tached to me on that account, as well as from the similarity of 
our studies. He at length proposed to me traveling all over 
Europe together, supporting ourselves everywhere by working at 
our business. I was once inclined to it ; but, mentioning it to 

1 The woman who, according to legend, wiped the face of Jesus on his 
way to Calvary, and carried away the likeness of his face, which had been 
miraculously printed on the cloth. 

2 A suburb of London, north of the Thames. 

3 Don Saltero had been a servant to Sir Hans Sloane, and had learned 
from him to treasure curiosities. He now had a coffeehouse at Chelsea. 

4 A name given to a part of London. The distance Franklin swam was 
about three miles. 



66 THE AUrOBIOGRArilY OF 

my good friend, Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour 
when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advising me to think 
only of returning to Pennsylvania, wdiich he was now about to do. 

I must record one trait of this good man's character. He had 
formerly been in business at Bristol, but failed, in debt to a num- 
ber of people, compounded, and went to America. There, by a 
close application to business as a merchant, he acquired a plenti- 
ful fortune in a few years. Returning to England in the ship wath 
me, he invited his old creditors to an entertainment, at which he 
thanked them for the easy composition i they had favored him 
with, and, when they expected nothing but the treat, every man 
at the first remove found under his plate an order on a banker 
for the full amount of the unpaid remainder, with interest. 

He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and 
should carry over a great quantity of goods, in order to open a 
store there. He proposed to take me over as his clerk, to keep 
his books (in which he would instruct me), copy his letters, and 
attend the store. He added that, as soon as I should be ac- 
quainted with mercantile business, he would promote me by send- 
ing me with a cargo of flour and bread, etc., to the West Indies, 
and procure me commissions from others w^hich w^ould be profit- 
able ; and, if I managed well, would establish me handsomely. 
The thing pleased me, for I was grown tired of London, remem- 
bered with pleasure the happy months I had spent in Pennsyl- 
vania, and wished again to see it ; therefore I immediately agreed 
on the terms of fifty pounds a year, Pennsylvania money ; less, 
indeed, than my present gettings as a compositor, but affording 
a better prospect. 

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, forever, and was 
daily employed in my new business, going about with Mr. Den- 
ham among the tradesmen to purchase various articles, and see- 
ing them packed up, doing en-ands, caUing upon workmen to 
dispatch, etc. ; and, when all was on board, I had a few days' 
leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my surprise, sent for by 

1 Settlement. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 67 

a great man I knew only by name, a Sir William Wyndham, and 
I waited upon him. He had heard by some means or other of 
my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriar's, and of my teaching 
Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours. He 
had two sons about to set out on their travels ; he wished to have 
them first taught swimming, and proposed to gratify ^ me hand- 
somely if I would teach them. They were not yet come to town, 
and my stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake it ; but from 
this incident I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in Eng- 
land and open a swimming school, I might get a good deal of 
money ; and it struck me so strongly that, had the overture been 
sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to 
America. After many years, you and I had something of more 
importance to do with one of these sons of Sir William Wynd- 
ham, become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its 
place. 

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London ; most part of 
the time I worked hard at my business, and spent but little upon 
myself except in seeing plays and in books. My friend Ralph 
had kept me poor; he owed me about twenty-seven pounds, 
which I was now never likely to receive, — a great sum out of my 
small earnings! I loved him, notwithstanding, for he had many 
amiable qualities. I had by no means improved my fortune ; 
but I had picked up some ver}" ingenious acquaintance, whose 
conversation was of great advantage to me ; and I had read con- 
siderably. 

We sailed from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726. For the 
incidents of the voyage I refer you to my journal, where you will 
find them all minutely related. Perhaps the most important part 
of that journal is the plan^ to be found in it, which I formed at 
sea, for regulating my future conduct in Hfe. It is the more re- 
markable, as being formed when I was so young, and yet being 
pretty faithfully adhered to quite through to old age. 

1 Pay. 2 This plan has never been found. 



68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



§ 4. IN PHILADELPHIA AND IN BUSINESS FOR HIMSELF. 

WE landed in Philadelphia on the nth of October, where I 
found sundry alterations. Keith was no longer governor, 
being superseded by Major Gordon. I met him walking the streets 
as a common citizen. He seemed a little ashamed at seeing me, 
but passed without saying anything. I should have been as much 
ashamed at seeing Miss Read, had not her friends, despairing 
with reason of my return after the receipt of my letter, persuaded 
her to marr}^ another, one Rogers, a potter, which w^as done in 
my absence. With him, however, she was never happy, and 
soon parted from him, refusing to bear his name, it being now 
said that he had another wife. He was a worthless fellow, 
though an excellent workman, which was the temptation to her 
friends. He got into debt, ran away in 1727 or 1728, went to 
the West Indies, and died there. Keimer had got a better house, 
a shop well supplied with stationery, plenty of new types, a 
number of hands, though none good, and seemed to have a great 
deal of business. 

Mr. Denham took a store in Water Street, where w^e opened 
our goods ; I attended the business dihgently, studied accounts, 
and grew, in a little time, expert at selling. We lodged and 
boarded together ; he counseled me as a father, having a sincere 
regard for me. I respected and loved him, and we might have 
gone on together very happy ; but, in the beginning of February, 
172^,^ w^hen I had just passed my twenty-first year, we were both 
taken ill. My distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly car- 
ried me off. I suffered a good deal, gave up the point in my own 
mind, and was rather disappointed when I found myself recover- 

1 This method of expression was adopted on the reformation of the calen- 
dar in England in 1752. It shows in this case that the February was of the 
year 1726 according to the old style, and 1727 according to the new calendar. 
The year 1751 began on the 25th of March, the former New-Year's Day, and 
ended, by act of Parliament, at the ist of January, 1752. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 69 

ing, regretting, in some degree, that I must now, some time or 
other, have all that disagreeable work to do over again. I forget 
what his distemper was ; it held him a long time, and at length 
carried him off. He left me a small legacy in a nuncupative ^ will, 
as a token of his kindness for me, and he left me once more to 
the wide world ; for the store was taken into the care of his ex- 
ecutors, and my employment under him ended. 

]\Iy brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Philadelphia, advised 
my return to my business ; and Keimer tempted me, with an offer 
of large wages by the year, to come and take the management 
of his printing house, that he might better attend his stationer's 
shop. I had heard a bad character of him in London from his 
wife and her friends, and was not fond of having any more to do 
with him. I tried for further employment as a merchant's clerk ; 
but, not readily meeting with any, I closed again with Keimer. 
I found in his house these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh 
Pennsylvanian, thirty years of age, bred to country work ; honest, 
sensible, had a great deal of solid observation, was something of 
a reader, but given to drink, Stephen Potts, a young country- 
man of full age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, 
and great wit and humor, but a little idle. These he had agreed 
with at extremely low wages per week, to be raised a shilhng 
every three months, as they would deserve by improving in their 
business; and the expectation of these high wages, to come on 
hereafter, was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith was 
to work at press, Potts at bookbinding, which he, by agreement, 
was to teach them, though he knew neither one nor the other. 

John , a wild Irishman, brought up to no business, whose 

service, for four years, Keimer had purchased 2 from the captain 
of a ship ; he, too, was to be made a pressman. George Webb, 
an Oxford scholar, whose time for four years he had likewise 

1 Declared by word of mouth, not v/ritten. 

2 Those who were unable to pay for their passage by ship from one coun- 
try to another, sometimes sold their service for a term of years to the captain 
who brought them over. 



70 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

bought, intending him for a compositor, of whom more presently ; 
and David Harry, a country boy, whom he had taken apprentice. 

I soon perceived that the intention of engaging me at wages 
so much higher than he had been used to give was to have these 
raw, cheap hands formed through me ; and, as soon as I had in- 
structed them, then they being all articled ^ to him, he should be 
able to do without me. I went on, however, very cheerfully, put 
his printing house in order, which had been in great confusion, 
and brought his hands by degrees to mind their business and to 
do it better. 

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in the situation 
of a bought servant. He was not more than eighteen years 
of age, and gave me this account of himself: he was born in 
Gloucester, educated at a grammar school there, and had been dis- 
tinguished among the scholars for some apparent superiority in 
performing his part w^hen they exhibited plays. He belonged to 
the Witty Club there, and had written some pieces in prose and 
verse, which were printed in the Gloucester newspapers. Thence 
he was sent to Oxford, w^here he continued about a year, but not 
well satisfied, wishing of all things to see London, and become a 
player. At length, receiving his quarterly allowance of fifteen 
guineas,^ instead of discharging his debts he w^alked out of town, 
hid his gown in a furze bush, and footed it to London, wTiere, 
having no friends to advise him, he fell into bad company, soon 
spent his guineas, found no means of being introduced among 
the players, grew necessitous, pawned his clothes, and w^anted 
bread. Walking the street very hungry, and not knowing what 
to do W'ith himself, a crimp's ^ bill was put into his hand, offering 
immediate entertainment and encouragement to such as w^ould 
bind themselves to serve in America. He went directly, signed 
the indentures, was put into the ship, and came over, never writ- 

1 Bound by articles of apprenticeship. 

2 The guinea contains twenty-one shillings, while the pound has twenty. 

3 A crimp is one who brings recruits to the army or sailors to ships by false 
inducements. 



BEiVJAMI.V FRANKLIN. 71 

ing a line to acquaint his friends what ^yas become of him. He 
was lively, witty, good-natured, and a pleasant companion, but 
idle, thoughtless, and imprudent to the last degree. 

John, the Irishman, soon ran away ; with the rest I began to 
live very agreeably, for they all respected me the more as they 
found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and that from me 
they learned something daily. We never w^orked on Saturday, 
that being Keimer's Sabbath, so I had two days for reading. 
My acquaintance with ingenious people in the town increased. 
Keimer himself treated me with great civility and apparent re- 
gard, and nothing now made me uneasy but my debt to Vernon, 
which I was yet unable to pay, being hitherto but a poor econo- 
mist. He, however, kindly made no demand of it. 

Our printing house often wanted sorts, and there was no let- 
ter foundei in America. I had seen types cast at James's in 
London, but without much attention to the manner; however, I 
now contrived a mold, made use of the letters we had as punch- 
eons, struck the matrices ^ in lead, and thus supplied in a pretty 
tolerable way all deficiencies. I also engraved several things on 
occasion ; I made the ink ; I was warehouseman,- and everything, 
and, in short, quite a factotum. 

But, however serviceable I might be, I found that my services 
became every day of less importance, as the other hands improved 
in the business ; and when Keimer paid my second quarter's 
wages he let me know that he felt them too heavy, and thought 
I should make an abatement. He grew by degrees less civil, put 
on nriore of the master, frequently found fault, was captious, and 
seemed ready for an outbreaking. I went on, nevertheless, with 
a good deal of patience, thinking that his encumbered circum- 
stances were partly the cause. At length a trifle snapped our 
connections ; for, a great noise happening near the courthouse, 
I put my head out of the window to see what w^as the matter. 
Keimer, being in the street, looked up and saw me, and called out 
to me in a loud voice and angry tone to mind my business, adding 
1 Molds, 2 Here used for salesman. 



^2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

some reproachful words that nettled me the more for their pub- 
licity, all the neighbors, who were looking out on the same occa- 
sion, being witnesses how I was treated. He came up immedi- 
ately into the printing house ; continued the quarrel ; high words 
passed on both sides. He gave me the quarter's warning we had 
stipulated, expressing a wish that he had not been obliged to so 
long a warning. I told him that his wish was unnecessary, for 
I would leave him that instant; and so, taking my hat, walked 
out of doors, desiring Meredith, whom I saw below, to take care 
of some things I left, and bring them to my lodgings. 

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked my 
affair over. He had conceived a great regard for me, and was 
very unwilling that I should leave the house while he remained 
in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native country, 
which I began to think of ; he reminded me that Keimer was in 
debt for all he possessed ; that his creditors began to be uneasy ; 
that he kept his shop miserably, sold often w^ithout profit for 
ready money, and often trusted without keeping accounts; that 
he must therefore fail, which would make a vacancy I might 
profit of. I objected my want of money. He then let me know 
that his father had a high opinion of me, and, from some dis- 
course that had passed between them, he was sure would advance 
money to set us up, if I would enter into partnership with him. 
" My time," says he, " will be out with Keimer in the spring ; by 
that time we may have our press and types in from London. I 
am sensible I am no workman ; if you like it, your skill in the 
business shall be set against the stock I furnish, and we will share 
the profits equally." 

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented. His father was 
in town, and approved of it, the more as he saw I had great in- 
fluence with his son, had prevailed on him to abstain long from 
dram drinking, and he hoped might break him of that wretched 
habit entirely when we came to be so closely connected. I gave 
an inventory to the father, who carried it to a merchant ; the 
things were sent for, the secret was to be kept till they should 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 73 

arrive, and in the mean time I was to get work, if I could, at 
the other printing house. But I found no vacancy there, and so 
remained idle a few days, when Keimer, on a prospect of being 
employed to print some paper money in New Jersey, which would 
require cuts and various types that I only could supply, and ap- 
prehending Bradford might engage me and get the job from him, 
sent me a very civil message, that old friends should not part for 
a few words, the effect of sudden passion, and wishing me to re- 
turn, Meredith persuaded me to comply, as it would give more 
opportunity for his improvement under my daily instructions ; so 
I returned, and we went on more smoothly than for some time 
before. The New Jersey job was obtained, I contrived a cop- 
perplate press for it, the first that had been seen in the country ; 
I cut several ornaments and checks ^ for the bills. We went to- 
gether to Burlington, where I executed the whole to satisfaction ; 
and he received so large a sum for the work as to be enabled 
thereby to keep his head much longer above waten 

At Burlington I made an acquaintance with many principal 
people of the province. Several of them had been appointed by 
the Assembly a committee to attend the press, and take care that 
no more bills were printed than the law directed. They were 
therefore, by turns, constantly with us, and generally he who at- 
tended brought with him a friend or two for company. My mind 
having been much more improved by reading than Keimer's, I 
suppose it was for that reason my conversation seemed to be 
more valued. They had me to their houses, introduced me to 
their friends, and showed me much civility ; while he, though the 
master, was a little neglected. In truth, he was an odd fish ; igno- 
rant of common life, fond of rudely opposing received opinions, 
slovenly to extreme dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of re- 
ligion, and a little knavish withal. 

We continued there near three months ; and by that time I could 
reckon among my acquired friends Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, 
the secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and 
1 Marks or registers by which a bill may be identified. 



74 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

several of the Smiths, members of Assembly, and Isaac Decow, 
the surveyor general. The latter was a shrewd, sagacious old 
man, who told me that he began for himself, when young, by 
wheeling clay for the brickmakers, learned to write after he was 
of age, carried the chain for surveyors, who taught him survey- 
ing, and he had now by his industry acquired a good estate ; and 
says he, " I foresee that you will soon work this man out of his 
business, and make a fortune in it at Philadelphia." He had not 
then the least intimation of my intention to set up there or any- 
where. These friends were afterward of great use to me, as I 
occasionally was to some of them. They all continued their re- 
gard for me as long as they lived. 

Before I enter upon my public appearance in business, it may 
be well to let you know the then state of my mind with regard 
to my principles and morals, that you may see how far those in- 
fluenced the future events of my life. ]\Iy parents had early 
given me rehgious impressions, and brought m-e through my 
childhood piously in the Dissenting i way. But I was scarce fif- 
teen when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found 
them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of 
revelation itself. Some books against Deism 2 fell into my hands ; 
they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's 
Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite 
contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of 
the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me 
much stronger than the refutations ; in short, I soon became a 
thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particu- 
larly Collins and Ralph; but, each of them having afterward 
wronged me greatly without the least compunction, and recollect- 
ing Keith's conduct toward me (who was another freethinker), 
and my own toward Vernon and Miss Read, which at times 
gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, 



1 See Note 3, p. 19. 

2 Belief in the existence of a personal God, but denying revelation. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 75 

though it might be true, was not very useful. My London pam- 
phlet, which had for its motto these lines of Dryden : 

" Whatever is, is right. Though purblind man 
Sees but a part o' the chain, the nearest link: 
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam 
That poises all above; "^ 

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom, goodness, 
and power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in 
the world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no 
such things existing, appeared now not so clever a performance 
as I once thought it ; and I doubted whether some error had not 
insinuated itself unperceived into my argument, so as to infect all 
that followed, as is common in metaphysical reasonings. 

I grew convinced that truth, sincerity, and integrity in dealings 
between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felic- 
ity of hfe; and I formed written resolutions, which still remain 
in my journal book, to practice them ever while I lived. Reve- 
lation had indeed no weight with me as such ; but I entertained 
an opinion that, though certain actions might not be bad because 
• they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, 
yet probably those actions might be forbidden because they were 
bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in 
their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered. 
And this persuasion, with the kind hand of Providence, or some 
guardian angel, or accidental favorable circumstances and situa- 
tions, or all together, — preserved me, through this dangerous time 
of youth and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among 
strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my father, without 

1 '* Whatever is, is in its causes just, 

Since all things are by fate. But purblind man 
Sees but a part o' the chain, the nearest links ; 
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam 
That poises all above." 

Drydex, CEdipus, act iii. so. I. 



76 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

any willful gross immorality or injustice, that might have been 
expected from my want of religion. I say willful, because the 
instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in them, 
from my youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others. I had, 
therefore, a tolerable character to begin the world with ; I valued 
it properly, and determined to preserve it. 

We had not been long returned to Philadelphia before the new 
types arrived from London. We settled with Keimer, and left 
him by his consent before he heard of it. We found a house to 
hire near the market, and took it. To lessen the rent, which was 
then but twenty-four pounds a year, though I have since known 
it to let for seventy, we took in Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, and 
his family, who were to pay a considerable part of it to us, and 
we to board with them. We had scarce opened our letters and 
put our press in order, before George House, an acquaintance of 
mine, brought a countryman to us, whom he had met in the street 
inquiring for a printer. All our cash was now expended in the 
variety of particulars we had been obhged to procure, and this 
countryman's five shillings, being our first fruits, and coming so 
seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any crown I have since 
earned ; and the gratitude I felt toward House has made me often 
more ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to assist 
young beginners. 

There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. 
Such a one then lived in Philadelphia, a person of note, an 
elderly man, with a wise look and a very grave manner of speak- 
ing. His name was Samuel Mickle. This gentleman, a stranger 
to me, stopped one day at my door, and asked me if I was the 
young man who had lately opened a new printing house. Being 
answered in the affirmative, he said he was sorry for me, because 
it was an expensive undertaking, and the expense would be lost ; 
for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people already half 
bankrupts, or near being so, all appearances to the contrary, 
such as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain 
knowledge fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 77 

that would soon ruin us. And he gave me such a detail of mis- 
fortunes now existing, or that were soon to exist, that he left me 
half melancholy. Had I known him before I engaged in this 
business, probably I never should have done it. This man con- 
tinued to hve in this decaying place, and to declaim in the same 
strain, refusing for many years to buy a house there, because all 
was going to destruction ; and at last I had the pleasure of seeing 
him give five times as much for one as he might have bought it 
for when he first began his croaking. 

I should have mentioned before, that in the autumn of the 
preceding year I had formed most of my ingenious acquaint- 
ance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the 
^' Junto." ^ We met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up 
required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or 
more queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philoso- 
phy, to be discussed by the company ; and once in three months 
produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he 
pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a presi- 
dent, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after 
truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory ; and, to 
prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or 
direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and 
prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.^ 

The first members were: Joseph Breintnal, a copier of deeds 
for the scriveners, a good-natured, friendly, middle-aged man, a 
great lover of poetry, reading all he could meet with, and writ- 
ing some that was tolerable; very ingenious in many little knick- 
knackeries, and of sensible conversation. Thomas Godfrey, a 
self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and afterward in- 
ventor of what is now called Hadley's Quadrant. ^ But he 
knew little out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion ; 
as, like most great mathematicians I have met with, he expected 

1 The word means an assembly of persons engaged for a common pur- 
pose. It is from the Spanish y?^^/<a; (** a council "). 

} An instrument used in navigation for measuring the altitude of the sun. 



78 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

universal precision in everything said, or was forever denying 
or distinguishing upon trifles, to the disturbance of all con- 
versation. He soon left us. Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, after- 
ward surveyor general, w^ho loved books, and sometimes made 
a few verses. William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but loving 
reading, had acquired a considerable share of mathematics, 
which he first studied with a view to astrology that he after- 
ward laughed at. He also became surveyor general. William 
Maugridge, a joiner, a most exquisite mechanic, and a solid, 
sensible man. Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George W^ebb 
I have characterized before. Robert Grace, a young gentleman 
of some fortune, generous, lively, and witty ; a lover of punning 
and of his friends. And William Coleman, then a merchant's clerk, 
about my age, who had the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, 
and the exactest morals of almost any man I ever met with. He 
became afterward a merchant of great note, and one of our pro- 
vincial judges. Our friendship continued without interruption to 
his death, upward of forty years ; and the club continued almost 
as long, and was the best school of philosophy, morality, and poli- 
tics that then existed in the province ; for our queries, which were 
read the week preceding their discussion, put us upon reading with 
attention upon the several subjects, that we might speak more to 
the purpose ; and here, too, we acquired better habits of conversa- 
tion, everything being studied in our rules which might prevent 
our disgusting each other. From hence the long continuance of 
the club, which I shall have frequent occasion to speak further of 
hereafter. 

But my giving this account of it here is to show something of 
the interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves in 
recommending business to us. Breintnal particularly procured 
us from the Quakers the printing forty sheets of their history, the 
rest being to be done by Keimer ; and upon this we worked ex- 
ceedingty hard, for the price was low. It was a folio, pro patria 
size, in pica, with long primer notes. I composed of it a sheet a 
day, and Meredith worked it off at press ; it was often eleven at 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 79 

night, and sometimes later, before I had finished my distribution ^ 
for the next day's work, for the Uttle jobs sent in by our other 
friends now and then put us back. But so determined I was to 
continue doing a sheet a day of the foho that one night, when, 
having imposed ^ my forms, I thought my day's work over, one 
of them by accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi,^ 
I immediately distributed and composed it over again before I 
went to bed ; and this industry, visible to our neighbors, began to 
give us character and credit ; particularly, I was told, that men- 
tion being made of the new printing office at the merchants' 
Every-Night Club, the general opinion was that it must fail, there 
being already two printers in the place, Keimer and Bradford ; but 
Dr. Baird (whom you and I saw many years after at his native 
place, St. Andrew's, in Scotland) gave a contrary opinion : '' For 
the industry of that Frankhn," says he, '' is superior to anything 
I ever saw of the kind ; I see him still at work when I go home 
from club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out 
of bed." This struck the rest, and we soon after had offers from 
one of them to supply us with stationery ; but as yet we did not 
choose to engage in shop business. 

I mention this industry the more particularly and the more 
freely, though it seems to be talking in my own praise, that those 
of my posterity who shall read it may know the use of that virtue, 
when they see its effects in my favor throughout this relation. 

George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent him 
wherewith to purchase his time of Keimer, now came to offer him- 
self as a journeyman to us. We could not then employ him ; but 
I foolishly let him know, as a secret, that I soon intended to begin 
a newspaper, and might then have work for him. My hopes 
of success, as I told him, were founded on this : that the then only 
newspaper, printed by Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly 
managed, no way entertaining, and yet was profitable to him ; I 
therefore thought a good paper would scarcely fail of good en- 

1 Putting the types no longer needed for printing into the proper boxes. 

2 Set up for printing. 3 Type in a jumbled mass. 



8o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

couragement. I requested Webb not to mention this ; but he 
told it to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, 
pubhshed proposals for printing one himself, on which Webb was 
to be employed. I resented this ; and, to counteract them, as 
I could not yet begin our paper, I wrote several pieces of en- 
tertainment for Bradford's paper, under the title of the '' Busy 
Body," wdiich Breintnal continued some months. By this means 
the attention of the public was fixed on that paper, and Keimer's 
proposals, which were burlesqued and ridiculed, were disregarded. 
He began his paper, however, and, after carrying it on three 
quarters of a year, with at most only ninety subscribers, he offered 
it to me for a trifle ; and I, having been ready some time to go 
on with it, took it in hand directly, and it proved in a few years 
extremely profitable to me.i 

1 perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular number, 
though our partnership still continued ; the reason may be that, 
in fact, the whole management of the business lay upon me. 
Meredith was no compositor, a poor pressman, and seldom sober. 
]\Iy friends lamented my connection with him, but I was to make 
the best of it. 

Our first papers made a quite different appearance from any 
before in the province ; a better type, and better printed ; but 
some spirited remarks of my writing, on the dispute ^ then going 
on between Governor Burnet and the IMassachusetts Assembly, 

1 '' This paper was called The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences 
and Pennsylvania Gazette. Keimer printed his last number — the thirty-ninth 
— on the twenty-fifth day of September, 1729." — Bigelow. 

2 The governor brought instructions from the king that his salary should 
be one thousand pounds. The legislature claimed the liberty of fixing the 
sum themselves. Franklin ended his article with this sentence : '' Their happy 
mother country will perhaps observe with pleasure that, though her gallant 
cocks and matchless dogs abate their natural fire and intrepidity when trans- 
ported to a foreign clime (as this nation is), yet her sons in the remotest part 
of the earth, and even to the third and fourth descent, still retain that ardent 
spirit of liberty, and that undaunted courage, which has in every age so 
gloriously distinguished Britons and Englishmen from the rest of mankind." 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 8i 

Struck the principal people, occasioned the paper and the manager 
of it to be much talked of, and in a few weeks brought them all 
to be our subscribers. 

Their example was followed by many, and our number went 
on growing continually. This w^as one of the first good effects 
of my having learned a little to scribble ; ^ another w^as that the 
leading men, seeing a newspaper now in the hands of one who 
could also handle a pen, thought it convenient to obhge and en- 
courage me. Bradford still printed the votes and laws and other 
pubHc business. He had printed an address of the House to the 
governor in a coarse, blundering manner; we reprinted it ele- 
gantly and correctly, and sent one to every member. They 
were sensible of the difference ; it strengthened the hands of our 
friends in the House, and they voted us their printers for the year 
ensuing. 

Among my friends in the House I must not forget Mr. Ham- 
ilton, before mentioned, who was then returned from England, 
and had a seat in it. He interested himself for me strongly in 
that instance, as he did in many others afterward, continuing his 
patronage till his death.^ 

Mr. Vernon, abotit this time, put me in mind of the debt I owed 
him, but did not press me. I wrote him an ingenuous letter of 
acknowledgment, craved his forbearance a httle longer, which 
he allowed me, and as soon as I was able I paid the principle, 
with interest, and many thanks ; so that erratum was in some de- 
gree corrected. 

But now another difificulty came upon me which I had never 
the least reason to expect. Mr. Meredith's father, who was to 
have paid for our printing house, according to the expectations 
given me, was able to advance only one hundred pounds cur- 
rency, which had been paid ; and a hundred more was due to the 
merchant, who grew impatient, and sued us all. We gave bail, 
but saw that, if the money could not be raised in time, the suit 

1 Franklin's Note. — I got his son once five hundred pounds. 
6 



82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

must soon come to a judgment and execution, and -our hopeful 
prospects must, with us, be ruined, as the press and letters must 
be sold for payment, perhaps at half price. 

In this distress two true friends, whose kindness I have never 
forgotten, nor ever shall forget while I can remember anything, 
came to me separately, unknown to each other, and, without any 
application from me, offering each of them to advance me all the 
money that should be necessary to enable me to take the whole 
business upon myself, if that should be practicable ; but they did 
not hke my continuing the partnership with Meredith, who, as 
they said, was often seen drunk in the streets, and playing at low 
games in alehouses, much to our discredit. These two friends 
w^ere William Coleman and Robert Grace. I told them I could 
not propose a separation while any prospect remained of the 
Merediths' fulfilling their part of our agreement, because I thought 
myself under great obligations to them for what they had done 
and would do if they could; but, if they finally failed in their 
performance, and our partnership must be dissolved, I should 
then think myself at liberty to accept the assistance of my 
friends. 

Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said to my part- 
ner, '' Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you have 
undertaken in this affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for 
you and me what he would for you alone. If that is the case, 
tell me, and I will resign the whole to you, and go about my busi- 
ness," "" Xo," said he, ''my father has really been disappointed, 
and is really unable ; and I am unwilling to distress him furdier. 
I see this is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, and 
it was a folly in me to come to town, and put myself, at thirty 
years of age, an apprentice to learn a new trade. Many of our 
Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina, where land is 
cheap. I am inclined to go with them, and follow my old em- 
ployment. You may find friends to assist you. If you will take 
the debts of the companv upon you, return to my father the hun- 
dred pounds he has advanced, pay my little personal debts, and 



BEXJAMIX FRANKLIN. ^Z 

give me thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish the 
partnership, and leave the whole in your hands." I agreed to 
this proposal ; it was drawn up in writing, signed, and sealed im- 
mediately. I gave him what he demanded, and he went soon 
after to Carolina, from whence he sent me next year two long 
letters, containing the best account that had been given of that 
country, the climate, the soil, husbandry, etc., for in those mat- 
ters he was very judicious. I printed them in the papers, and 
they gave great satisfaction to the public. 

As soon as he was gone, I recurred to my two friends ; and 
because I would not give an unkind preference to either, I took 
half of what each had offered and I wanted of one, and half of 
the other, paid off the company's debts, and went on with the 
business in my own name, advertising that the partnership was 
dissolved. I think this was in or about the year 1729. 

About this time there was a cry among the people for more 
paper money, only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the 
province, and that soon to be sunk. The wealthy inhabitants 
opposed any addition, being against all paper currency, from an 
apprehension that it would depreciate, as it had done in New 
England, to the prejudice of all creditors. We had discussed 
this point in our Junto, where I was on the side of an addition, 
being persuaded that the first small sum struck in 1723 had done 
much good by increasing the trade, employment, and number of 
inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all the old houses 
inhabited and many new ones building ; whereas, I remembered 
well that when I first walked about the streets of Philadelphia, 
eating my roll, I saw most of the houses in Walnut Street, be- 
tween Second and Front Streets, with bills on their doors, '' To 
be Let;" and many likewise in Chestnut Street and other streets, 
which made me then think the inhabitants of the city were desert- 
ing it one after another. 

Our debates possessed me so fully of the subject that I wrote 
and printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled, ''The Xature 
and Necessity of a Paper Currency." It was well received by 



84 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the common people in general ; but the rich men disliked it, for 
it increased and strengthened the clamor for more money, and 
they, happening to have no writers among them that were able to 
answer it, their opposition slackened, and the point was carried 
by a majority in the House. ]\Iy friends there, who conceived I 
had been of some service, thought fit to reward me by employing 
me in printing the money, — a very profitable job and a great help 
to me. This was another advantage gained by my being able to 
write. 

The utility of this currency became by time and experience so 
evident as never afterward to be much disputed ; so that it grew 
soon to fifty-five thousand pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand 
pounds, since which it rose during war to upward of three hun- 
dred and fifty thousand pounds, trade, building, and inhabitants 
all the while increasing, though I now think there are limits, beyond 
which the quantity may be hurtful. ^ 

I soon after obtained, through my friend Hamilton, the print- 
ing of the Newcastle paper money, another profitable job, as I 
then thought it, small things appearing great to those in small 
circumstances ; and these, to me, were really great advantages, as 
they were great encouragements. He procured for me, also, the 
printing of the laws and votes of that government,- which contin- 
ued in my hands as long as I followed the business. 

I now opened a little stationer's shop. I had in it blanks of all 
sorts, the correctest that ever appeared among us, being assisted 
in that by my friend Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, 
chapmen's books, etc. One Whitemash, a compositor I had 
known in London, an excellent workman, now came to me, and 
worked with me constantly and diligently ; and I took an appren- 
tice, the son of Aquila Rose. 

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for the 
printing house. In order to secure my credit and character as a 
tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and 

1 This money had not the full value of the pound sterling. 

2 That is, the government of Delaware. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 85 

frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary. I dressed 
plainly; I was seen at no places of idle diversion; I never went 
out a-fishing or shooting ; a book, indeed, sometimes debauched 
me from my work, but that was seldom, snug,^ and gave no scan- 
dal ; and, to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes 
brought home the paper I purchased at the stores through the 
streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus, being esteemed an industrious, 
thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the 
merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom ; others 
proposed supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. 
In the mean time, Keimer's credit and business declining daily, 
he was at last forced to sell his printing house to satisfy his cred- 
itors. He went to Barbadoes, and there lived some years in very 
poor circumstances. 

His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had instructed while I 
worked with him, set up in his place at Philadelphia, having 
bought his materials. I was at first apprehensive of a powerful 
rival in Harry, as his friends were very able and had a good deal 
of interest. I therefore proposed a partnership to him, which he, 
fortunately for me, rejected with scorn. He was very proud, 
dressed hke a gentleman, lived expensively, took much diversion 
and pleasure abroad, ran in debt, and neglected his business ; 
upon which, all business left him ; and, finding nothing to do, he 
followed Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the printing house with 
him. There this apprentice employed his former master as a 
journeyman ; they quarreled often ; Harry went continually be- 
hindhand, and at length was forced to sell his types and return 
to his country work in Pennsylvania. The person that bought 
them employed Keimer to use them, but in a few years he died. 

There remained now no competitor with me at Philadelphia 
but the old one, Bradford, who was rich and easy, did a little 
printing now and then by straggling hands, but was not very 
anxious about the business. However, as he kept the post office, 
it was imagined he had better opportunities of obtaining news. 

1 In secret. 



86 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

His paper was thought a better distributer of advertisements than 
mine, and therefore had many more, which was a profitable thing 
to him, and a disadvantage to me ; for, though I did indeed re- 
ceive and send papers by post, yet the pubhc opinion was other- 
wise, for what I did send was by bribing the riders,^ who took 
them privately, Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it, which 
occasioned some resentment on my part; and I thought so 
meanly of him for it that, when I afterward came into his situ- 
ation, I took care never to imitate it. 

I had hitherto continued to board with Godfrey, who lived in 
part of my house with his wife and children, and had one side of 
the shop for his glazier's business, though he worked little, being 
always absorbed in his mathematics. Mrs. Godfrey projected a 
match for me with a relation's daughter, and took opportunities 
of bringing us often together, till a serious courtship on my part 
ensued, the girl being in herself very deser^dng. The old folks 
encouraged me by continual invitations to supper, and by leav- 
ing us together, till at length it was time to explain. Mrs. God- 
frey managed our little treaty. I let her know that I expected as 
much money "^ with their daughter as would pay off my remaining 
debt for the printing house, which I believe was then above a 
hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such sum to 
spare. I said they might mortgage their house in the loan office. 
The answer to this, after some days, was that they did not ap- 
prove the match ; that, on inquiry of Bradford, they had been 
informed the printing business was not a profitable one ; the types 
would soon be worn out and more wanted ; that S. Keimer and 
D. Harry had failed one after the other, and I should probably 
soon follow them ; and therefore I was forbidden the house, and 
the daughter shut up. 

Whether this was a real change of sentiment, or only artifice, 
on a supposition of our being too far engaged in affection to re- 
tract, and therefore that we should steal a marriage, which would 
leave them at liberty to give or withhold what they pleased, I 
1 Men on horseback who carried the mail. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 87 

know not; but I suspected the latter, resented it, and went no 
more. Mrs. Godfrey brought me afterward some more favor- 
able accounts of their disposition, and would have drawn me on 
again ; but I declared absolutely my resolution to have nothing 
more to do with that family. This was resented by the God- 
freys ; we differed, and they removed, leaving me the whole house, 
and I resolved to take no more inmates. 

But this affair having turned my thoughts to marriage, I looked 
round me and made overtures of acquaintance in other places ; 
but soon found that, the business of a printer being generally 
thought a poor one, I was not to expect money with a wife, un- 
less with such a one as I should not otherwise think agreeable. 
In the mean time a friendly correspondence as neighbors and old 
acquaintances had continued between me and ]\Ir. Read's family, 
who all had a regard for me from the time of my first lodging 
in their house. I was often invited there and consulted in their 
affairs, wherein I sometimes was of service. I pitied poor Miss 
Read's unfortunate situation, who was generally dejected, seldom 
cheerful, and avoided company. I considered my giddiness and 
inconstancy when in London as in a great degree the cause of 
her unhappiness, though the mother was good enough to think 
the fault more her own than mine, as she had prevented our 
marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other match in 
my absence. Our mutual affection was revived, but there were 
now great objections to our union. The match ^ was indeed looked 
upon as invalid, a preceding wife being said to be living in Eng- 
land ; but this could not easily be proved because of the distance ; 
and though there was a report of his death, it was not certain. 
Then, though it should be true, he had left many debts, which his 
successor might be called upon to pay. We ventured, however, 
over all these difficulties, and I took her to wife Sept. i, 1730. 
None of the inconveniences happened that we had apprehended ; 
she proved a good and faithful helpmate, assisted me much by 
attending shop, we throve together, and have ever mutually en- 
1 Miss Reed's first marriage. 



88 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

deavored to make each other happy. Thus I corrected that 
great erratum as well as I could. ^ 

About this time, our club meeting not at a tavern but in a 
little room of Mr. Grace's set apart for that purpose, a proposi- 
tion was made by me that, since our books were often referred 
to in our disquisitions upon the queries, it might be convenient 
to us to have them all together where we met, that upon occa- 
sion they might be consulted ; and by thus clubbing our books 
to a common library, we should, while we hked to keep them to- 
gether, have each of us the advantage of using the books of all 
the other members, which would be nearly as beneficial as if each 
owned the whole. It was liked and agreed to, and we filled one 
end of the room with such books as we could best spare. The 
number was not so great as we expected ; and though they had 
been of great use, yet, some inconveniences occurring for want 
of due care of them, the collection, after about a year, was sep- 
arated, and each took his books home again. 

And now I set on foot my first project of a pubHc nature, — that 

1 Mrs. Franklin died Dec. 19, 1774. Franklin celebrated his wife in a 
song, of which the following verses are a part : 

" Of their Chloes and Phyllises poets may prate, 
I sing my plain country Joan, 
These twelve years my wife, still the joy of my life, 
Blest day that I made her my own. 

*' Am I loaded with care, she takes off a large share, 
That the burden ne'er makes me to reel ; 
Does good fortune arrive, the joy of my wife 
Quite doubles the pleasure I feel. 

" Some faults have we all, and so has my Joan, 
But then they're exceedingly small ; 
And, now Fm groAvn used to them, so hke my own, 
I scarcely can see them at all. 

" Were the finest young princess with millions in purse, 
To be had in exchange for my Joan, 
I could not get better wife, might get a worse, 
So I'll stick to my dearest old Joan." 



BEXJAMIX FRAXKLIX. 89 

for a subscription library.^ I drew up the proposals, got them 
put into form by our great scrivener, Brockden, and, by the help 
of my friends in the Junto, procured fifty subscribers of forty 
shilhngs each to begin with, and ten shilhngs a year for fifty 
years, the term our company was to continue. We afterward 
obtained a charter, the company being increased to one hun- 
dred. This was the mother of all the North American subscrip- 
tion libraries, now so numerous. It is become a great thing 
itself, and continually increasing. These libraries have improved 
the general conversation of the x\mericans, made the common 
tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from 
other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to 
the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defense 
of their privileges.^ 



Continuation of the Account of my Life, Begun at 
Passy, near Paris, 17S4. 

It is some time since I received the above letters.- but I have 
been too busy till now to think of complying with the request 
they contain. It might, too, be much better done if I were at 
home among my papers, which would aid my memory, and help 
to ascertain dates ; but my return being uncertain, and having 
just now a little leisure, I will endeavor to recollect and write 
what I can ; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and 
improved. 

Not having any copy here of what is already v^Titten, I know 
not whether an account is given of the means I used to estabhsh 
the Philadelphia Pubhc Library, which, from a small beginning, 

1 Franklin's ^Memorandum.— Thus far was written with the intention 
expressed in the beginning, and therefore contains several little family anec- 
dotes of no importance to others. What follows was written many years 
after in compliance with the ad\dce contained in these letters (see p. 192), 
and accordingly intended for the public. The affairs of the Revolution 
occasioned the interruption. 2 ggg Note i. 



90 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

is now become so considerable, though I remember to have come 
down to near the time of that transaction (1730). I will there- 
fore begin here with an account of it, which may be struck out 
if found to have been already given. 

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not 
a good bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the southward 
of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were 
indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, 
and a few common schoolbooks. Those who loved reading were 
obliged to send for their books from England ; the members of 
the Junto had each a few. We had left the alehouse where 
we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed 
that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where 
they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but 
become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow 
such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, 
and for some time contented us. 

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to 
render the benefit from books more common by commencing a 
public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and 
rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, 
Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of 
agreement to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to 
pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an 
annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the read- 
ers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, 
that I was not able, with great industry, to find more than fifty 
persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this 
purpose forty shillings each and ten shillings per annum. 

On this little fund we began. The books were imported ; the 
library was opened one day in the w^eek for lending to the sub- 
scribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not 
duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was 
imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries 
were augmented by donations ; reading became fashionable ; and 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 91 

our people, having no public amusements to divert their atten- 
tion from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a 
few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and 
more inteUigent than people of the same rank generally are in 
other countries. 

When we were about to sign the above-mentioned articles, 
which were to be binding on us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, 
Mr. Brockden, the scrivener, said to us : '' You are young men, 
but it is scarcely probable that any of you will Hve to see the ex- 
piration of the term fixed in the instrument." A number of us, 
however, are yet living ; but the instrument was, after a few years, 
rendered null by a charter that incorporated and gave perpetuity 
to the company.^ 

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the 
subscriptions made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting 
one^s self as the proposer of any useful project that might be 
supposed to raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above 
that of one's neighbors, when one has need of their assistance to 
accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as much as I 
could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a '^number of 

1 The Philadelphia Library was incorporated in 1 742. In its building is 
a tablet which reads as follows : 

Be it remembered, 

in honor of the Philadelphia youth 

(then chiefl}^ artificers), 

thatinMDCCXXXI. 

they cheerfully, 

at the instance of Benjamin Franklin, 

one of their number, 

instituted the Philadelphia Library, 

which, though small at first, 

is become highly valuable and extensively useful, 

and which the walls of this edifice 

are now destined to contain and preserve ; 

the first stone of whose foundation 

was here placed 
the thirty-first day of August, 1789. 

The inscription, save the mention of himself, was prepared by Franklin. 



92 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

friends," who had requested me to go about and propose it to such 
as they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affair went 
on more smoothly, and I ever after practiced it on such occa- 
sions, and, from my frequent successes, can heartily recommend 
it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterward be 
amply repaid. If it remains awhile uncertain to whom the merit 
belongs, some one more vain than yourself will be encouraged 
to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice 
by plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their 
right owner. 

This library afforded me the means of improvement by con- 
stant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and 
thus repaired in some degree the loss of the learned education 
my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amuse- 
ment I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or 
frolics of any kind; and my industry in my business continued 
as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for my 
printing house ; I had a young family coming on to be educated, 
and I had to contend for business with two printers, who were 
established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, 
grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and 
my father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, fre- 
quently repeated a proverb of Solomon, " Seest thou a man diligent 
in his business? he shall stand before kings ; he shall not stand be- 
fore mean men," ^ I from thence considered industry as a means 
of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me, though 
I did not think that I should ever literally '' stand before kings ; " 
which, however, has since happened, for I have stood before five, 
and even had the honor of sitting down with one (the King of 
Denmark) to dinner. ° 

We have an English proverb that says, " He that would thrive 

must ask his wife." It was lucky for me that I had one as much 

disposed to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me 

cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tend- 

1 See Prov. xxii. 29. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 93 

ing shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper makers, etc. 
We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our 
fumitiire of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a 
long time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a two- 
penny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how 
luxury will enter families and make a progress in spite of princi- 
ple. Being called one morning to breakfast, I found it in a china 
bowl with a spoon of silver! They had been bought for me with- 
out my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous 
sum of three-and-twenty shilHngs, for which she had no other ex- 
cuse or apology to make but that she thought her husband de- 
served a silver spoon and china bowl as well as any of his neigh- 
bors. This was the first appearance of plate and china in our 
house, which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth in- 
creased, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in 
value. 

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian ; and, though 
I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, 
Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some re- 
ligious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence 
of the Deity ; that he made the world, and governed it by his 
providence ; that the most acceptable service of God was the 
doing good to man ; that our souls are immortal ; and that all 
crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or here- 
after. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and 
being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I 
respected them all, though with different degrees of respect as 
I found them more or less mxixed with other articles which, without 
any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served 
principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. 
This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good 
effects, induced me to avoid all discourse that might tend to 
lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion ; 
and as our province increased in people, and new places of wor- 
ship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary 



94 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the 
sect, was never refused. 

Though I seldom attended any pubhc worship, I had still an 
opinion of its propriety and of its utility when rightly conducted, 
and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of 
the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadel- 
phia. He used to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish 
me to attend his administrations, and I was now and then pre- 
vailed on to do so, once for five Sundays successively. Had he 
been in my opinion a good preacher, perhaps I might have con- 
tinued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday's lei- 
sure in my course of study ; but his discourses were chiefly either 
polemic arguments or explications of the peculiar doctrines of 
our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedify- 
ing, since not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforced, 
their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than 
good citizens. 

At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter 
of Philippians : '' Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, 
whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatso- 
ever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever 
things are of good report ; if there be any virtue, and if there be 
any praise, think on these things;" and I imagined, in a sermon 
on such a text, we could not miss of having some morality. 
But he confined himself to five points only, as meant by the 
apostle: i. Keeping holy the Sabbath day. 2. Being dihgent in 
reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the pubhc wor- 
ship. 4. Partaking of the sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect 
to God's ministers. These might be all good things ; but, as they 
were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, 
I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was dis- 
gusted, and attended his preaching no more. I had some years 
before composed a little liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own 
private use (in 1728), entitled ''Articles of Behef and Acts of 
Religion." I returned to the use of this, and went no more to 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 95 

the public assemblies. My conduct might be blamable, but I 
leave it without attempting further to excuse it, my present pur- 
pose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them. 



i §5. CONTINUED SELF-EDUCATION, 

IT was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous pro- 
ject of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live with- 
out committing any fault at any time ; I would conquer all that 
either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me 
into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, 
I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the 
other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more diffi- 
culty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in 
guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; 
habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was some- 
times too strong for reason. I concluded at length that the 
mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be com- 
pletely virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping ; and 
that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones axquired 
and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, 
uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore con- 
trived the following method. 

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met 
with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numer- 
ous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the 
same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined 
to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean 
the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or 
passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I 
proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more 
names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few names with 



9^ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all 
that at that time occurred to me as necessary or desirable, and 
annexed to each a short precept, which fully expressed the extent 
I gave to its meaning. 

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were : 

I. Temperance. 
Eat not to dullness ; drink not to elevation. 

2. Silence. 

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself ; avoid tri- 
fling conversation. 

3. Order. 

Let all your things have their places ; let each part of your 
business have its time. 

4. Resolution. 

Resolve to perform what you ought ; perform without fail 
what you resolve. 

5. Frugality. 

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., 
waste nothing. 

6. Industry. 

Lose no time ; be always employed in something useful ; cut 
off all unnecessary actions. 

7. Sincerity. 

Use no hurtful deceit ; think innocently and justly ; and, if you 
speak, speak accordingly. 

8. Justice. 
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are 
your duty. 

9. Moderation. 
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you 
think they deserve. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 97 

10. Cleanliness. 
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. 

II. Tranquillity. 
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoid- 
able. 

12. Chastity. 

13. Humility. 
Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, 
I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempt- 
ing the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time ; and, 
when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, 
and so on, till I should have gone through the thirteen ; and, as 
the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition 
of certain others, I arranged them with that view as they stand 
above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and 
clearness of head which is so necessary where constant vigilance 
was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting 
attraction of ancient habits and the force of perpetual tempta- 
tions. This being acquired and established. Silence would be 
more easy ; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same 
time that I improved in virtue, and considering that in conver- 
sation it was obtained rather by the use of the ears than of the 
tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into 
of prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me accept- 
able to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place. This 
and the next. Order, I expected would allow me more time for 
attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once be- 
come habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all 
the subsequent virtues ; Frugality and Industry, freeing me from 
my remaining debt, and producing aflluence and independence, 
would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, etc. 
7 



9^ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Conceiving then that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in 
his '^ Golden Verses/'^ daily examination would be necessary, 1 
contrived the following method for conducting that examination. 

I made a little book,- in which I allotted a page for each of 
the virtues. I iTiled each page with red ink, so as to have seven 
columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column 
with a letter for the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen 
red lines, marking the beginning of each hne with the first letter 
of one of the virtues, on which hne, and in its proper column, I 
might mark, by a httle black spot, every fault I found upon exami- 
nation to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day. 

I determined to give a week's strict attention to each of the 
virtues successively. Thus, in the first week my great guard was 
to avoid every (the least) offense against Temperance, leaving the 
other virtues to their ordinary chance, only marking every even- 
ing the faults of the day. Thus, if in the first week I could keep 
my first line, marked T., clear of spots, I supposed the habit of 
that virtue so much strengthened, and its opposite weakened, that 

1 The following is taken from the commentary of Hierocles upon the 
Golden Verses of Pythagoras. The English version is given by Bigelow in 
his edition of the Autobiography : 

'' He [Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century B.C.] requires also 
that this examination be daily repeated. The time which he recommends for 
this work is about even or bedtime, that we may conclude the action of the 
day with the judgment of conscience, making the examination of our conver- 
s:ition an evening song to God. Wherein have I transgressed? What have I 
done? What duty have I omitted? So shall we measure our lives by rules. 

'' We should have our parents and relations in high esteem, love and em- 
brace good men, raise ourselves above corporeal affections, everyo^here stand 
in awe of ourselves, carefully observe justice, consider the frailty of riches and 
momentary life, embrace the lot which falls to us by di\*ine judgment, delight 
in a divine frame of spirit, convert our mind to what is most excellenf, love 
good discourses, not lie open to impostures, not be ser\dlely affected in the 
possession of virtue, ad\4se before action to prevent repentance, free ourselves 
from uncertain opinions, live with knowledge, and lastly, that we should 
adapt our bodies and the things without to the exercise of ^^rtue. These are 
the things which the lawgi^^ng mind has implanted in the souls of men." 

2 It is dated July i, 1733. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 



99 



I might venture extending my attention to include the next, and 
for the following week keep both lines clear of spots. Proceed- 
ing thus to the last, I could go through a course complete in thir- 
teen weeks, and four courses in a year. And, like him who, hav- 
ing a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad 



FORM OF THE PAGES. 



TEMPERANCE. 


EAT NOT TO DULLNESS; 
DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION. 




S. i INI. 1 T. W. 1 T. ! F. ' S. 


T[emperance] | 


S[ilence] * i * j * i * i 


0[rder] | ** i * i * i * i * * 


R[esolution] * * 


F[rugality] * * 


I[ndustry] * ; 


S[incerity] 1 , 


J[ustice] 1 


M[oderation] 


1 


C[leanliness] 


i %■ ' \ i 


T[ranquinity] 






' i 1 




C[hastity] 






1 1 

1 




H[umiHty] 









herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but 
works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplished 
the first, proceeds to a second, so I should have, I hoped, the 
encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I made 
in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till in 
the end, by a number of courses, I should be happy in viewing a 



lOO ■ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

clean book, after a thirteen-weeks' daily examination. My little 
book had for its motto these hnes from Addison's '' Cato :" 
" Here will I hold. If there's a power above us 
(And that there is, all Nature cries aloud 
Thro' all her works). He must deUght in virtue; 
And that which He delights in must be happy." 

Another from Cicero : 

^^O vit^ Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque 
vitiorum ! Unus dies, bene et ex prasceptis tuis actus, peccanti im- 
mortalitati est anteponendus."^ 

Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking of wisdom or 
virtue : 

'' Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches 
and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are 
peace." (iii. i6, 17.) 

And, conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I thought 
it right and necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it. To 
this end I formed the following little prayer, which was prefixed 
to my tables of examination, for daily use : 

'•'O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! In- 
crease in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strength- 
en my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my 
kind offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for 
thy continual favors to me." 

I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thom- 
son's Poems : 

" Father of hght and life, thou Good Supreme ! 
O teach me what is good ; teach me Thyself! 
Save me from folly, vanity, and vice. 
From every low pursuit ; and fill my soul 
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure; 
Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss ! " 

1 '' O philosophy, thou guide of life! O thou searcher after virtue and ban- 
isher of vice ! One day lived well and in obedience to thy precepts should be 
preferred to an eternity of sin." 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 



The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business 
should have its allotted time, one page in my httle book contained 
the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of 
a natural day. 



The Morning. 
Question. What good shall 
I do this day ? ^ 



Rise, wash, and address Power- 
ful Goodness!^ Contrive day's 
business, and take the resolution 
of the day ; prosecute the present 
study, and breakfast. 



Work. 



Noon. 



Read, or overlook 
counts, and dine. 



my 



Work. 



Evening. 
Question . What good have 
I done to-day "l 



Night. 



Put things in their places. 
Supper. Music or diversion, or 
conversation. Examination of 
the day. 



Sleep. 



I entered upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, 
and continued it, with occasional intermissions, for some time. I 
was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had 
imagined ; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. 
To avoid the trouble of renewing now and then my little book, 
which, by scraping out the marks on the paper of old faults to 
make room for new ones in a new course, became full of holes, I 
transferred my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a mem- 



102 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

orandum book, on which the hnes were drawn with red ink, that 
made a durable stain, and on those Hnes I marked my faults with 
a black lead pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out with a 
wet sponge. After a while I w^ent through one course only in a 
year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I 
omitted them entirely, being employed in voyages and business 
abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered ; but I always 
carried my little book with me. 

]\Iy scheme of Order gave me the most trouble ; and I found 
that, though it might be practicable where a man's business was 
such as to leave him the disposition of his time, — that of a jour- 
neyman printer, for instance, — it was not possible to be exactly 
observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often 
receive people of business at their own hours. Order, too, with 
regard to places for things, papers, etc., I found extremely diffi- 
cult to acquire. I had not been early accustomed to it, and, hav- 
ing an exceeding good memory, I was not so sensible of the in- 
convenience attending want of method. This article, therefore, 
cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed me 
so much, and I made so little progress in amendment and had 
such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the at- 
tempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, 
hke the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbor, de- 
sired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The 
smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the 
wheel. He turned, while the smith pressed the broad face of the 
ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it 
very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the 
wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take 
his ax as it was, without farther grinding. '' No," said the smith, 
'' turn on, turn on ; we shall have it bright by and by ; as yet, it 
is only speckled." ^'Yes," says the man, ''but I think I Hke a 
speckled ax best." And I believe this may have been the case 
with many, who, having, for want of some such means as I em- 
ployed, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 103 

habits in other points of vice and virtue, have given up the strug- 
gle, and concluded that a '^ speckled ax " was best. For something, 
that pretended to be reason, was every now and then suggesting 
to me that such extreme nicety as I exacted of myself might be a 
kind of foppery in morals, which, if it were known, w^ould make 
me ridiculous ; that a perfect character might be attended with 
the inconvenience of being envied and hated ; and that a benevo- 
lent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his friends 
in countenance. 

In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to order; 
and, now I am grown old and my memory bad, I feel very sen- 
sibly the want of it. But on the whole, though I never arrived 
at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell 
far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier 
man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted 
it ; as those who aim at perfect writing by imitating the engraved 
copies, though they never reach the wished-for excellence of 
those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and is toler- 
able while it continues fair and legible. 

It may be well my posterity should be infonned that to this little 
artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant 
felicity of his hfe, down to his seventy-ninth year, in which this is 
\mtten. What reverses may attend the remainder is in the hand 
of Providence ; but, if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness 
enjoyed ought to help his bearing them with more resignation. 
To temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is 
still left to him of a good constitution ; to industry and frugahty, 
the early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his for- 
tune, wnth all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citi- 
zen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the 
learned; to sincerity and justice, the confidence of his country, 
and the honorable employs it conferred upon him ; and to the 
joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the im- 
perfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of tem- 
per and that cheerfulness in conversation which makes his company 



104 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Still sought for, and agreeable even to his younger acquaintance. 
I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the 
example and reap the benefit. 

It will be remarked that, though my scheme was not w^holly 
without rehgion, there w^as in it no mark of any of the distin- 
guishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely avoided 
them ; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of 
my method, and that it might be serviceable to people in all re- 
hgions, and intending some time or other to publish it, I would 
not have anything in it that should prejudice any one, of any 
sect, against it. I purposed wTiting a little comment on each vir- 
tue, in which I would have shown the advantages of possessing 
it, and the mischiefs attending its opposite vice ; and I should 
have called my book '^ The Art of Virtue,*' ^ because it would 
have shown the means and manner of obtaining virtue, which 
would have distinguished it from the mere exhortation to be 
good, that does not instruct and indicate the means, but is like 
the apostle's man of verbal charity, who only, without showing 
to the naked and hungry how or where they might get clothes or 
victuals, exhorted them to be fed and clothed. (James ii. 15, 16.) 

But it so happened that my intention of ^^Titing and publishing 
this comment was never fulfilled. I did, indeed, from time to 
time, put down short hints of the sentiments, reasonings, etc., to 
be made use of in it, some of which I have still by me ; but the 
necessary close attention to private business in the earlier part of 
my life, and public business since, has occasioned my postpon- 
ing it ; for, it being connected in my mind with a great and exten- 
sive project, that required the w^hole man to execute, and which 
an unforeseen succession of employs prevented my attending to, 
it has hitherto remained unfinished. 

In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce this doc- 
trine, that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbid- 
den, but forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of man 

1 Franklin's Note. — Nothing so likely to make a man's fortune as 
virtue. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 105 

alone considered ; that it was, therefore, every one's interest to 
be virtuous who wished to be happy even in this world ; and I 
should, from this circumstance, (there being always in the world a 
number of rich merchants, nobility, states, and princes, who have 
need of honest instruments for the management of their affairs, 
and such being so rare,) have endeavored to convince young per- 
sons that no qualities were so likely to make a poor man's fortune 
as those of probity and integrity. 

My list of virtues contained at first but twelve ; but a Quaker 
friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought 
proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation; 
that I was not content with being in the right when discussing 
any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent, of which he 
convinced me by mentioning several instances, — I determined 
endeavoring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among 
the rest, and I added Humility to my hst, giving an extensive mean- 
ing to the word. 

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this 
virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. 
I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments 
of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbade 
myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every 
word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, 
such as '* certainly," "undoubtedly," etc., and I adopted, instead of 
them, " I conceive," '' I apprehend," or " I imagine " a thing to be so 
or so ; or '^ it so appears to me at present." When another asserted 
something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of 
contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some ab- 
surdity in his proposition ; and in answering I began by observing 
that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, 
but in the present case there "' appeared " or '' seemed " to me some 
difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my 
manner : the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly ; 
the modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them 
a readier reception and less contradiction ; I had less mortifica- 



io6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tion when I was found to be in the wrong ; and I more easily 
prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me 
when I happened to be in the right. 

And this mode, w^hich I at first put on with some violence to 
natural inclination, became at length so easy and so habitual to 
me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard 
a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my 
character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early 
so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new in- 
stitutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public 
councils when I became a member ; for I was but a bad speaker, 
never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, 
hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points. 

In reality there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so 
hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, 
stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will 
every now and then peep out and show itself. You will see it, 
perhaps, often in this history ; for, even if I could conceive that 
I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my 
humility.^ 

[''I AM NOW ABOUT TO WRITE AT HOME, AUGUST, 1 788, BUT 
CANNOT HAVE THE HELP EXPECTED FROM MY PAPERS, MANY 
OF THEM BEING LOST IN THE WAR.- I HAVE, HOWEVER, 
FOUND THE FOLLOWING."] 

Having mentioned a great and extensive project which I had 
conceived, it seems proper that some account should be here 
given of that project and its object. Its first rise in my mind ap- 
pears in the following little paper, accidentally preser^-ed : 

Ohsey-vations 07i my ReadUig History, in Library, May 19, 1731. 

^^-That the great affairs of the world, — the wars, revolutions, etc. , — 
are carried on and effected by parties. 

'' That the view of these parties is their present general interest, or 
what they take to be such. 

1 Thus far written at Passy, 1784. ^ The Revolution. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 107 

^^That the different views of these different parties occasion all 
confusion. 

*^ That while a party is carrying on a general design, each man has 
his particular private interest in view. 

'^ That as soon as a party has gained its general point, each mem- 
ber becomes intent upon his particular interest; which, thwarting 
others, breaks that party into divisions, and occasions more confusion. 

" That few in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of their 
country, whatever they may pretend ; and though their actings bring 
real good to their country, yet men primarily consider that their own 
and their country's interest is united, and do not act from a principle 
of benevolence. 

'' That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view to the good of 
mankind. 

^^ There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a 
United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all 
nations into a regular body, to be governed by suitable good and wise 
rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in 
their obedience to than common people are to common law's. 

'' I at present think that whoever attempts this aright, and is well 
qualified, cannot fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success. 

B. F.'' 

Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken here- 
after, w^hen my circumstances should afford me the necessary 
leisure, I put down from time to time, on pieces of paper, such 
thoughts as occurred to me respecting it. Most of these are lost ; 
but I find one purporting to be the substance of an intended 
creed, containing, as I thought, the essentials of every known 
religion, and being free of everything that might shock the pro- 
fessors of any rehgion. It is expressed in these words : 

'' That there is one God, who made all things. 

'' That he governs the world by his providence. 

''That he ought to be w^orshiped by adoration, prayer, and 
thanksgiving. 

'' But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to 
man. 

'' That the soul is immortal. 



io8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

^'And that God ^Yill certainly reward virtue and punish vice, 
either here or hereafter.'' 

My ideas at that time were that the sect should be begun and 
spread at first among young and single men only; that each 
person to be initiated should not only declare his assent to such 
creed, but should have exercised himself with the thirteen-weeks' 
examination and practice of the virtues, as in the before-men- 
tioned model ; that the existence of such a society should be kept 
a secret till it was become considerable, to prevent solicitations 
for the admission of improper persons, but that the members 
should each of them search among his acquaintance for ingenu- 
ous, well-disposed youths, to whom, with prudent caution, the 
scheme should be gradually communicated ; that the members 
should engage to afford their advice, assistance, and support to 
each other in promoting one another's interests, business, and 
advancement in life ; that, for distinction, we should be called 
'' The Society of the Free and Easy : " free, as being, by the gen- 
eral practice and habit of the virtues, free from the dominion of 
vice ; and particularly, by the practice of industry and frugality, 
free from debt, which exposes a man to confinement and a species 
of slavery to his creditors. 

This is as much as I can now recollect of the project, except 
that I communicated it in part to two young men, who adopted 
it with some enthusiasm ; but my then narrow circumstances, and 
the necessity I was under of sticking close to my business, occa- 
sioned my postponing the further prosecution of it at that time ; 
and my multifarious occupations, public and private, induced me 
to continue postponing, so that it has been omitted till I have no 
longer strength or activity left sufficient for such an enterprise ; 
though I am still of opinion that it was a practicable schem.e, and 
might have been very useful, by forming a great number of good 
citizens ; and I was not discouraged by the seeming magnitude 
of the undertaking, as I have always thought that one man of 
tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great 
affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 109 

off all amusements or other employments that would divert his 
attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study 
and business. 

In 1732 I first published my Almanac,^ under the name of 
" Richard Saunders;" it was continued by me about twenty-five 
years, and commonly called ''Poor Richard's Almanac." I endeav- 
ored to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly 
came to be in such demand that I reaped considerable profit from 
I it, vending annually near ten thousand. And observing that it was 
generally read, scarce any neighborhood in the province being 
without it, I considered it as a proper vehicle for conveying in- 
struction among the common people, who bought scarcely any 
other books. I therefore filled all the little spaces that occuiTed 
between the remarkable days in the calendar with proverbial 
sentences,^ chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugahty as 
the means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue ; it 
being more difficult for a man in want to act always honestly, as 
(to use here one of those proverbs) '' it is hard for an empty sack 
to stand upright." 

These proverbs, which contained the w^isdom of many ages and 
nations, I assembled and formed into a connected discourse,^ 
prefixed to the Almanac of 1757 as the harangue of a wise old 

i Almanacs were the first issues of the American press. It is not easy in 
our day to understand their importance to the early colonists, and their con- 
sequent popularity. The makers, philomaths (''lovers of learning") as Frank- 
lin called them, set out their wares in every attractive form the taste and in- 
genuity of the age could devise. They made them a diary, a receipt book, a 
jest book, and a weather prophet, as well as a calendar book of dates. The 
household was poor indeed which could not scrape up a twopence or a six- 
pence for the annual copy. Once bought, it hung by the big chimney-piece, 
or lay upon the clock shelf with the Bible and a theological tract or two. It 
was read by the light that shone from the blazing logs of the fireplace or the 
homemade tallow dip. Its recipes helped the mother in her dyeing or weav- 
ing or cooking. Its warnings of '' cold storms," ''flurries of snow," cau- 
{, tioned the farmer against too early planting of corn; and its perennial jokes 
I flavored the mirth of many a corn husking or apple paring. 
2 See p. 198. 3 gee pp. 199-206.. 

lii 



no THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

man to the people attending an auction. The bringing all these 
scattered counsels thus into a focus enabled them to make greater 
impression. The piece, being universally approved, Avas copied 
in all the newspapers of the Continent, reprinted in Britain on a 
broadside,^ to be stuck up in houses, two translations were made of 
it in French, and great numbers bought by the clergy and gentry 
to distribute gratis among their poor parishioners and tenants. 
In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged useless expense in foreign su- 
perfluities, some thought it had its share of influence in producing 
that growing plenty of money which was observable for several 
years after its pubHcation. 

I considered my newspaper, also, as another means of com- 
municating instruction, and in that view frequently reprinted in 
it extracts from the '' Spectator," and other moral writers, and 
sometimes published little pieces of my own, which had been first 
composed for reading in our Junto. Of these are a Socratic dia- 
logue, tending to prove that, whatever might be his parts and 
abilities, a vicious man could not properly be called a man of 
sense ; and a discourse on self-denial, showing that virtue is not 
secure till its practice becomes a habitude, and is free from the 
opposition of contrary inclinations. These may be found in the 
papers about the beginning of 1735. 

In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libel- 
ing and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgrace- 
ful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert anything 
of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the 
liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stagecoach, 
in which any one who would pay had a right to a place, my an- 
swer was that I would print the piece separately if desired, and 
the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute 
himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detrac- 
tion ; and that, having contracted with my subscribers to furnish 
them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could 
not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had 

1 A sheet printed on one side only and without arrangement in columns. 



BEIsTJAMIN FRANKLIN, III 

no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many 
of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the mahce of indi- 
viduals by false accusations of the fairest characters among our- 
selves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels ; and 
are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on 
the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct 
of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most 
pernicious consequences. These things I mention as a caution 
to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute 
their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous prac- 
tices, but refuse steadily, as they may see by my example that 
such a course of conduct will not, on the whole, be injurious to 
their interests. 

In 1733 I sent one of my journeymen to Charleston, South 
Carolina, where a printer was wanting. I furnished him w^ith a 
press and letters, on an agreement of partnership by which I was 
to receive one third of the profits of the business, paying one third 
of the expense. He was a man of learning, and honest but 
ignorant in matters of account; and, though he sometimes made 
me remittances, I could get no account from him, nor any satis- 
factory state of our partnership while he hved. On his decease 
the business was continued by his widow, who, being born and 
bred in Holland, where, as I have been informed, the knowledge 
of accounts makes a part of female educatibn,'' she not only sent 
me as clear a state ^ as she could find of the transactions past, 
but continued to account with the greatest regularity and exactness 
every quarter afterward, and managed the business with such 
success that she not only brought up reputably a family of chil- 
dren, but, at the expiration of the term, was able to purchase of 
me the printing house, and establish her son in it. 

I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of recommending that 
branch of education for our young women, as likely to be of more 
use to .them and their children, in case of widowhood, than either 
music or dancing, by preserving them from losses by imposition 

1 Statement. 



112 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of crafty men, and enabling them to continue, perhaps, a profit- 
able mercantile house, with established correspondence, till a son 
is grown up fit to undertake and go on with it, to the lasting ad- 
vantage and enriching of the family. 

About the year 1734 there arrived among us from Ireland a 
young Presbyterian preacher, named Hemphill, who delivered 
with a good voice, and apparently extempore, most excellent dis- 
courses, which drew together considerable numbers of different 
persuasions, who joined in admiring them. Among the rest I 
became one of his constant hearers, his sermons pleasing me, as 
they had little of the dogmatical kind, but inculcated strongly 
the practice of virtue, or what in the religious style are called 
" good works." Those, however, of our congregation who consid- 
ered themselves as orthodox Presbyterians, disapproved his doc- 
trine, and were joined by most of the old clergy, who arraigned 
him of heterodoxy ^ before the synod, in order to have him silenced. 
I became his zealous partisan, and contributed all I could to raise 
a party in his favor, and we combated for him awhile with some 
hopes of success. There was much scribbling pre and con ^ upon 
the occasion ; and finding that, though an elegant preacher, he 
was but a poor writer, I lent him my pen and wrote for him two 
or three pamphlets, and one piece in the " Gazette " of April, 
1735. Those pamphlets, as is generally the case with controver- 
sial writings, though eagerly read at the time, were soon out of 
vogue, and I question whether a single copy of them now exists. 

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt his cause exceed- 
ingly. One of our adversaries having heard him preach a sermon 
that was much admired, thought he had somewhere read the ser- 
mon before, or at least a part of it. On search, he found that 
part quoted at length in one of the British Reviews, from a dis- 
course of Dr. Foster's. This detection gave many of our party 
disgust, who accordingly abandoned his cause, and occasioned 
our more speedy discomfiture in the synod. I stuck by him, 

^ Departure from the faith held by the members of the synod or assembly. 
2 " Pro and con," i.e., for and against. 



1 li 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 113 

however, as I rather approved his giving us good sermons com- 
posed by others than bad ones of his own manufacture, though 
the latter was the practice of our common teachers. He after- 
ward acknowledged to me that none of those he preached were 
his own, adding that his memory was such as enabled him to re- 
tain and repeat any sermon after one reading only. On our de- 
feat, he left us in search elsewhere of better fortune, and I quitted 
the congregation, never joining it after, though I continued many 
years my subscription for the support of its ministers. 

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon made myself 
so much a master of the French as to be able to read the books 
with ease. I then undertook the Itahan. An acquaintance, who 
was also learning it, used often to tempt me to play chess with 
him. Finding this took up too much of the time I had to spare 
for study, I at length refused to play any more, unless on this 
condition : that the victor in every game should have a right to 
impose a task, either in parts of the grammar to be got by heart, 
or in translations, etc., which task the vanquished was to perform 
on honor before our next meeting. As we played pretty equally, 
w^e thus beat one another into that language. I afterward, with 
a little painstaking, acquired as much of the Spanish as to read 
their books also. 

I have already mentioned that I had only one year's instruc- 
tion in a Latin school, and that when very young, after which I 
neglected that language entirely. But, when I had attained an 
acquaintance with the French, Italian, and Spanish, I was sur- 
prised to find, on looking over a Latin Testament, that I under- 
stood so much more of that language than I had imagined, which 
encouraged me to apply myself again to the study of it, and I met 
with more success, as those preceding languages had greatly 
smoothed my way. 

From these circumstances, I have thought that there is some 
inconsistency in our common mode of teaching languages.^ We 
are told that it is proper to begin first with the Latin, and, hav- 
ing acquired that, it will be more easy to attain those modern 



114 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

languages which are derived from it ; and yet we do not begin 
with the Greek in order more easily to acquire the Latin. It is 
true that, if you can clamber and get to the top of the staircase 
without using the steps, you will more easily gain them in de- 
scending ; but certainly, if you begin with the lowest you will with 
m.ore ease ascend to the top ; and I would therefore offer it to 
the consideration of those who superintend the education of our 
youth, whether, — since many of those who begin with the Latin 
quit the same after spending some years without having made 
any great proficiency, and what they have learned becomes almost 
useless, so that their time has been lost, — it would not have been 
better to have begun with the French, proceeding to the Italian, 
etc. ; for, though, after spending the same time, they should quit 
the study of languages and never arrive at the Latin, they would, 
however, have acquired another tongue or two, that, being in 
modern use, might be serviceable to them in common life. 

After ten years* absence from Boston, and having become easy 
in my circumstances, I made a journey thither to visit my rela- 
tions, which I could not sooner well afford. In returning, I 
called at Newport to see my brother, then settled there with his 
printing house. Our former differences were forgotten, and our 
meeting was very cordial and affectionate. He was fast declin- 
ing in his health, and requested of me that, in case of his death, 
which he apprehended not far distant, I would take home his son, 
then but ten years of age, and bring him up to the printing busi- 
ness. This I accordingly performed, sending him a few years to 
school before I took him into the office. His mother carried on 
the business till he was grown up, when I assisted him with an 
assortment of new types, those of his father being in a man- 
ner worn out. Thus it was that I made my brother am.ple 
amends for the service I had deprived him of by leaving him 
so early. 

In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by 
the smallpox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bit- 
terly, and still regret, that I had not given it to him by inocula- 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 115 

tion.i This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that 
operation on the supposition that they should never forgive them- 
selves if a child died under it; m.y example showing that the 
regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer 
should be chosen. 

Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded such 
satisfaction to the members, that several were desirous of intro- 
ducing their friends, which could not well be done without exceed- 
ing what we had settled as a convenient number, namely, twelve. 
We had from the beginning made it a rule to keep our institution 
a secret, which was pretty well observed. The intention was to 
avoid applications of improper persons for admittance, some of 
whom, perhaps, we might find it difficult to refuse. I was one of 
those who were against any addition to our number, but, instead 
of it, made in writing a proposal that every member separately 
should endeavor to form a subordinate club, with the same rules 
respecting queries, etc., and without informing them of the con- 
nection with the Junto. The advantages proposed were the im- 
provement of so many more young citizens by the use of our in- 
stitutions ; our better acquaintance with the general sentiments of 
the inhabitants on any occasion, as the Junto member might pro- 
pose what queries we should desire, and was to report to the 
Junto what passed in his separate club ; the promotion of our 
particular interests in business by more extensive recommenda- 
tion ; and the increase of our influence in public affairs and our 
power of doing good by spreading through the several clubs the 
sentiments of the Junto. 

The project was approved, and every member undertook to form 
his club, but they did not all succeed. Five or six only were 
comxpleted, which were called by different names, as '' The Vine," 
" The Union," '' The Band," etc. They were useful to them- 
selves, and afforded us a good deal of amusement, information, 
and instruction, besides answering, in some considerable degree, 

1 Vaccination was not at this time known. By inoculation the smallpox 
, poison was introduced into the arm, and produced a milder form of the disease.^ 



Ii6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

our views of influencing the public opinion on particular occasions, 
of which I shall give some instances in course of time as they 
happened. 



§ 6. ENTERS PUBLIC LIFE. 

MY first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, clerk of the 
General Assembly. The choice was made that year without 
opposition ; but the year following,when I was again proposed, (the 
choice, like that of the members, being annual,) a new member 
made a long speech against me, in order to favor some other 
candidate. I was, however, chosen, which was the more agree- 
able to me as, besides the pay for the immediate service as clerk, 
the place gave me a better opportunity of keeping up an interest 
among the members, which secured to me the business of print- 
ing the votes, laws, paper money, and other occasional jobs for 
the public, that, on the whole, were very profitable. 

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who 
was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were 
likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House ; which, 
indeed, afterward happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining 
his favor by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some 
time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his 
library a certain ver}^ scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to 
him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting 
he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. 
He sent it immediately, and I returned it in about a week with an- 
other note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we 
next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done 
before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a 
readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great 
friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is an- 
other instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 117 

says : " He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready 
to do you another than he whom you yourself have obhged." And 
it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than 
to resent, return, and continue, inimical proceedings. 

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia, and 
then postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the conduct of his 
deputy at Philadelphia respecting some negligence in rendering 
and inexactitude of his accounts, took from him the commission 
and offered it to me. I accepted it readily, and found it of great 
advantage ; for, though the salary was small, it facilitated the corre- 
spondence that improved my newspaper and increased the number 
demanded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it 
came to afford me a considerable income. My old competitor's 
newspaper declined proportionably, and I was satisfied without 
retaliating his refusal, while postmaster, to permit my papers being 
carried by the riders. Thus he suffered greatly from his neglect 
in due accounting; and I mention it as a lesson to those young 
men who may be employed in- managing affairs for others, that 
they should always render accounts and make remittances with 
great clearness and punctuality. The character of observing such 
a conduct is the most powerful of all recommendations to new 
employments and increase of business. 

I began now to turn my thoughts a little to pubhc affairs, be- 
ginning, however, with small matters. The city watch was one 
of the first things that I conceived to want regulation. It was 
managed by the constables of the respective wards in turn. The 
constable warned a number of housekeepers to attend him for the 
night. Those who chose never to attend, paid him six shiUings 
a year to be excused, which was supposed to be for hiring substi- 
tutes, but was, in reality, much more than was necessary for that 
purpose, and made the constableship a place of profit ; and the 
constable, for a little drink, often got such ragamuffins about him 
as a watch that respectable housekeepers did not choose to mix 
with them.'' Walking the rounds, too, was often neglected, and 
most of the nights spent in tippling. I thereupon wrote a paper to 



ii8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

be read in Junto, representing these irregularities, but insisting 
more particularly on the inequality of this six-shilling tax of the 
constables respecting the circumstances of those who paid it, since 
a poor widow housekeeper, all whose property to be guarded by 
the watch did not perhaps exceed the value of fifty pounds, paid 
as much as the wealthiest merchant, who had thousands of pounds' 
worth of goods in his stores. 

On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual watch the hiring 
of proper men to serve constantly in that business ; and as a more 
equitable way of supporting the charge, the levying a tax that 
should be proportioned to the property. This idea, being ap- 
proved by the Junto, was communicated to the other clubs, but 
as arising in each of them ; and though the plan was not imme- 
diately carried into execution, yet, by preparing the minds of peo- 
ple for the change, it paved the way for the law obtained a few 
years after, when the members of our clubs were grown into more 
influence. 

About this time I wrote a paper, (first to be read in Junto, but 
it was afterward pubhshed,) on the different accidents and care- 
lessnesses by which houses were set on fire, with cautions against 
them, and means proposed of avoiding them. This was much 
spoken of as a useful piece, and gave rise to a project which soon 
followed it, of forming a company for the more ready extinguish- 
ing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing of 
goods when in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently 
found, amounting to thirty. Our articles of agreement obhged 
every member to keep always in good order, and fit for use, a 
certain number of leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets 
(for packing and transporting of goods), which were to be brought 
to every fire ; and we agreed to meet once a month and spend a 
social evening together, in discoursing and communicating such 
ideas as occurred to us upon the subject of fires as might be use- 
ful in our conduct on such occasions. 

The utility of this institution soon appeared,"" and many more 
desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient for one com- 



BENJAMIX FRAXKLIN, 1 1 9 

pany, they were advised to form another, which was accordingly 
done ; and this went on, one new company being formed after 
another, till they became so numerous as to include most of the 
inhabitants who were men of property ; and now, at the time of 
my writing this, though upward of fifty years since its establish- 
ment, that which I first formed, called the ''Union Fire Company," 
still subsists and flourishes, though the first members are all de- 
ceased but myself and one who is older by a year than I am. 
The small fines that have been paid by members for absence from 
the monthly meetings have been apphed to the purchase of fire 
engines, ladders, fire hooks, and other useful implements for each 
company, so that I question whether there is a city in the world 
better provided with the means of putting a stop to beginning 
conflagrations ; and, in fact, since these institutions, the city has 
never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a time, and the 
flames have often been extinguished before the house in which 
they began has been half consumed. 

In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Rev. Mr. White- 
field,^ who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant 
preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our 
churches ; but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refused 
him their pulpits, and he was obliged to preach in the fields. 
The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his 
sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, 
who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence 
of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admired and 
respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them by as- 
suring them they were naturally '' half beasts and half devils." It 
was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of 
our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about re- 
ligion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that 
one could not walk through the town in an evening without 
hearing psalms sung in different families of every street. 

1 George \Yhitefield, one of the founders of iNIethodism, who was born in 
Gloucester, England, in 1714, and died in Newburyport, Mass., in 1770.''' 



120 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

And, it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, 
subject to its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in 
was no sooner proposed, and persons appointed to receive con- 
tributions, but sufficient sums were soon received to procure the 
ground and erect the building, which was one hundred feet long 
and seventy broad, about the size of Westminster Hall '} and the 
work was carried on with such spirit as to be finished in a much 
shorter time than could have been expected. Both house and 
ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any 
preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say 
something to the people of Philadelphia ; the design in building 
not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants 
in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to 
send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would 
find a pulpit at his service. 

Mr. Whitefield, in leaving us, went preaching all the way 
through the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province 
had lately been begun, but, instead of being made with hardy, 
industrious husbandmen, accustomed to labor, — the only people fit 
for such an enterprise, — it was with families of broken shopkeepers 
and other insolvent debtors, many of indolent and idle habits, 
taken out of the jails, who, being set down in the woods, unquali- 
fied for clearing land and unable to endure the hardships of a 
new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many helpless chil- 
dren unprovided for.2 The sight of their miserable situation in- 
spired the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield with the idea of 
building an orphan house ^ there, in which they might be supported 
and educated. Returning northward, he preached up this char- 
ity, and made large collections, for his eloquence had a wonder- 

1 In London. 

2 General Oglethorpe founded an English colony in Georgia in 1732. He 
wished to make an asylum to which debtors, whose liberty the laws of Eng- 
land put into the hands of the creditor, (see Way to Wealth, p. 204,) might 
escape, and where those fleeing from religious persecution might be safe from 
their pursuers. 

3 This institution was established in Savannah, and called Bethesda, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN I2I 

ful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I 
myself was an instance. 

I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia was then 
destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send 
them from Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would 
have been better to have built the house here, and brought the 
children to it. This I advised ; but he was resolute in his first 
project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refused to contrib- 
ute. I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the 
course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collec- 
tion, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I 
had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver 
dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to 
soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of 
his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give 
the silver ; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket 
wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At this sermon there 
was also one of our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting 
the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be in- 
tended, had, by precaution, emptied his pockets before he came 
from home. Toward the conclusion of the discourse, however, 
he felt a strong desire to give, and applied to a neighbor who stood 
near him, to borrow some money for the purpose. The application 
was unfortunately to perhaps the only man in the company who 
had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer 
was : ^'' At any other time, friend Hopkinson, I would lend to 
thee freely ; but not now, for thee seems to be out of thy right 
senses." 

Some of Mr. Whitefield's enemies affected to suppose that he 
[ would apply these collections to his own private emolument ; but 
' I, who was intimately acquainted with him, being employed in 
printing his sermons and journals, etc., never had the least sus- 
picion of his integrity, but am to this day decidedly of opinion 
I that he was in all his conduct a perfectly honest man ; and me- 
thinks my testimony in his favor ought to have the more weight 



122 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

as we had no religious connection. He used, indeed, sometimes 
to pray for my conversion, but he never had the satisfaction of 
believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil 
friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death. 

The following instance will show something of the terms on 
which we stood. Upon one of his arrivals from England at 
Boston, he \^T:ote to me that he should come soon to Philadelphia, 
but knew not where he could lodge when there, as he understood 
his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet, was removed to German- 
town. My answer was : '* You know my house ; if you can make 
shift with its scanty accommodations, you will be most heartily 
welcome.'* He replied that if I made that kind offer for Christ's 
sake I should not miss of a reward ; and I returned : *' Don't let 
me be mistaken ; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your own 
sake." One of our common acquaintance remarked that, know- 
ing it to be the custom of the saints, when they received any 
favor, to shift the burden of the obligation from off their own 
shoulders and place it in heaven, I had contrived to fix it on 
earth. 

The last time I saw Mr. Whitefield was in London, when he 
consulted me about his orphan house concern, and his purpose 
of appropriating it to the establishment of a college. 

He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words and 
sentences so perfectly that he might be heard and understood 
at a great distance, especially as his auditors, however numerous, 
observed the most exact silence. He preached one evening from 
the top of the courthouse steps, which are in the middle of ]\Iarket 
Street, and on the west side of Second Street, which crosses it at 
right angles. Both streets were filled with his hearers to a con- 
siderable distance. Being among the hindmost in Market Street, 
I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by retir- 
ing backward down the street toward the river; and I found 
his voice distinct till I came near Front Street, when some noise 
in that street obscured it. Imagining then a semicircle, of which 
my distance should be the radius, and that it were filled with 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 123 

auditors, to each of whom I allowed two square feet, I computed 
that he might well be heard by more than thirty thousand. This 
reconciled me to the newspaper accounts of his having preached 
to twenty-five thousand people in the fields, and to the ancient 
histories of generals haranguing whole armies, of which I had 
sometimes doubted. 

By hearing him often, I could distinguish easily between ser- 
mons newly composed and those which he had often preached in 
the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so im- 
proved by frequent repetitions that every accent, every emphasis, 
every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well turned and well 
placed that, without being interested in the subject, one could 
not help being pleased with the discourse ; a pleasure of much the 
same kind with that received from an excellent piece of music. 
This is an advantage itinerant preachers have over those who are 
stationary, as the latter cannot well improve their delivery of a 
sermon by so many rehearsals. 

His writing and printing from time to time gave great advan- 
tage to his enemies. Unguarded expressions and even erroneous 
opinions, delivered in preaching, might have been afterward ex- 
plained or qualified by supposing others that might have accom- 
panied them, or they might have been denied ; but litera scripta 
manet?- Critics attacked his writings violently, and with so much 
appearance of reason as to diminish the number of his votaries 
and prevent their increase ; so that I am of opinion if he had never 
written anything, he would have left behind him a much more nu- 
merous and important sect, and his reputation might in that case 
have been still growing, even after his death ; as, there being noth- 
ing of his writing on which to found a censure and give him a lower 
character, his proselytes would be left at liberty to feign for him 
as great a variety of excellences as their enthusiastic admiration 
might wish him to have possessed. 

My business was now continually augmenting, and my circum- 
stances growing daily easier, my newspaper having become very 
1 Written words endure. 



124 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

profitable, as being for a time almost the only one in this and the 
neighboring provinces. I experienced, too, the truth of the ob- 
servation that '' after getting the first hundred pounds it is more 
easy to get the second," money itself being of a prolific nature. 

The partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I was encour- 
aged to engage in others, and to promote several of my work- 
men who had behaved well, by establishing them with printing 
houses in different colonies, on the same terms as that in Caro- 
lina.. Most of them did well, being enabled at the end of our 
term, six years, to purchase the types of me and go on working 
for themselves, by which means several families were raised. Part- 
nerships often finish in quarrels ; but I was happy in this, that 
mine were all carried on and ended amicably, owing, I think, a 
good deal to the precaution of having very explicitly settled, in 
our articles, everything to be done by or expected from each 
partner, so that there was nothing to dispute, which precaution 
I would therefore recommend to all who enter into partnership ; 
for, whatever esteem partners may have for and confidence in 
each other at the time of the contract, little jealousies and dis- 
gusts may arise, with ideas of inequality in the care and burden 
of the business, etc., which are attended often with breach of 
friendship and of the connection, perhaps with lawsuits and other 
disagreeable consequences. 

I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satisfied with my 
being established in Pennsylvania. There were, however, two 
things which I regretted, — there being no provision for defense, nor 
for a complete education of youth ; no militia, nor any college. 
I therefore, in 1743, drew up a proposal for estabhshing an acad- 
emy, and at that time thinking the Rev. Mr. Peters, who was out 
of employ, a fit person to superintend such an institution, I com- 
municated the project to him; but he, having more profitable 
views in the service of the proprietaries, which succeeded, declined 
the undertaking ; and, not knowing another at that time suitable 
for such a trust, I let the scheme lie awhile dormant. I suc- 
ceeded better the next year, 1744, in proposing and estabhshing 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 125 

a philosophical society.^ The paper I wrote for that purpose will 
be found among my ^yritings when collected. 

With respect to defense, — Spain having been several years at 
war against Great Britain, and being at length joined by France, 
which brought us into great danger, and the labored and long- 
continued endeavor of our governor, Thomas, to prevail with our 
Quaker Assembly 2 to pass a mihtia law and make other provi- 
sions for the security of the province, having proved abortive, — I 
determined to try what might be done by a voluntary association 
of the people. To promote this I first v^Tote and pubhshed a 
pamphlet entitled '' Plain Truth,'' in which I stated our defense- 
less situation in strong Hghts, with the necessity of union and dis- 
cipline for our defense, and promised to propose in a few days an 
association, to be generally signed for that purpose. The pam- 
phlet had a sudden and surprising effect. I was called upon for 
the instrument of association, and having settled the draft of it 
with a few friends, I appointed a meeting of the citizens in the 
large building before mentioned. The house was pretty full. I 
had prepared a number of printed copies, and provided pens and 
ink dispersed all over the room. I harangued them a little on 
the subject, read the paper and explained it, and then distributed 
the copies, which were eagerly signed, not the least objection 
being made. 

When the company separated and the papers were collected, 
we found above twelve hundred hands ; and, other copies being 
dispersed in the country, the subscribers amounted at length to 

1 This society continues. The plan of it was discussed by the Junto, from 
which came six of the nine original members. Its investigations were to be 
in botany, medicine, mineralogy and mining, mathematics, chemistry, me- 
chanics, arts, trades and manufactures, geography, topography, agriculture, 
and '* all philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things, 
tend to increase the power of man over matter, and multiply the conveniences 
and pleasures of life." '^ Benjamin Franklin, the writer of this proposal, 
offers himself to serve the society as their secretary till they shall be provided 
with one more capable." 

2 The Pennsylvania legislature. 



126 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

upward of ten thousand. These all furnished themselves as soon 
as they could with arms, formed themselves into companies and 
regiments, chose their own officers, and met every week to be in- 
structed in the manual exercise and other parts of military disci- 
pline. The women, by subscriptions among themselves, provided 
silk colors, which they presented to the companies, painted with 
different devices and mottoes which I suppHed. 

The officers of the companies composing the Philadelphia regi- 
ment, being met, chose me for their colonel ; but, conceiving 
myself unfit, I declined that station, and recommended Mr. Law- 
rence, a fine person and man of influence, who was accordingly 
appointed. I then proposed a lottery ^ to defray the expense of 
building a battery below the town, and furnishing it with cannon. 
It filled expeditiously, and the battery was soon erected, the mer- 
lons ^ being framed of logs and filled with earth. We bought 
some old cannon from Boston, but, these not being sufficient, we 
wrote to England for more, soliciting at the same time our pro- 
prietaries for some assistance, though without much expectation 
of obtaining it. 

Meanwhile Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram Taylor, 
Esq., and myself were sent to New York by the associators, com- 
missioned to borrow some cannon of Governor Clinton. He at 
first refused us peremptorily ; but at dinner with his council, where 
there was great drinking of Madeira wine, as the custom of that 
place then was, he softened by degrees, and said he would lend 
us six. After a few more bumpers he advanced to ten, and at 
length he very good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They were 
fine cannon, eighteen-pounders, with their carriages, which we 
soon transported and mounted on our battery, where the associ- 
ators kept a nightly guard while the war lasted, and among the 
rest I regularly took my turn of duty there as a common soldier. 

1 At this time lotteries were used for raising money to support the govern- 
ment, to carry on wars, and to build churches, colleges, roads, etc. They 
were not then looked upon as fostering gambling. 

2 The walls of defense between the openings for the cannon. 



B EN J AMI X FRAXKLIN. 127 

My activity in these operations was agreeable to the governor 
and council ; they took me into confidence, and I was consulted 
by them in every measure wherein their concurrence was thought 
useful to the association. Calling in the aid of rehgion, I pro- 
posed to them the proclaiming a fast, to promote reformation 
and implore the blessing of Heaven on our undertaking. They 
embraced the motion ; but as it was the first fast ever thought of 
in the province, the secretary had no precedent from which to 
draw the proclamation. ^ly education in New England, where 
a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of some advantage. I 
drew it in the accustomed style. It was translated into German, 
printed in both languages, and divulged through the province. 
This gave the clergy of the different sects an opportunity of influ- 
encing their congregations to join in the association, and it would 
probably have been general among all but Quakers if the peace 
had not soon inter^'ened. 

It was thought by some of my friends that by my activity in 
these affairs I should offend that sect, and thereby lose my inter- 
est in the ^Issembly of the province, where they formed a great 
majority. A young gentleman who had likewise some friends in 
the House, and wished to succeed me as their clerk, acquainted 
me that it was decided to displace me at the next election, and 
he therefore, in good will, advised me to resign, as more consist- 
ent with my honor than being turned out. Xiy answer to him 
Avas, that I had read or heard of some public man who made it 
a rule never to ask for an office and never to refuse one when 
offered to him. '^ I approve," says I, '^ of his rule, and will prac- 
tice it with a small addition : I shall never ask, never refuse, nor 
ever resign an office. If they will have my office of clerk to dis- 
pose of to another, they shall take it from me. I will not. by giv- 
ing it up, lose my right of some time or other making reprisals ^ 
on my adversaries." I heard, however, no more of this; I was 
chosen again unanimously, as usual, at the next election. Possibly, 
as they disliked my late intimacy with the members of council, 

1 Retaliation. 



128 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

who had joined the governors in all the disputes about military 
preparations with which the House had long been harassed, they 
might have been pleased if I would voluntarily have left them ; 
but they did not care to displace me on account merely of my 
zeal for the association, and they could not well give another 
reason. 

Indeed I had some cause to beHeve that the defense of the 
country was not disagreeable to any of them, provided they were 
not required to assist in it. And I found that a much greater 
number of them than I could have imagined, though against 
offensive war, were clearly for the defensive. Many pamphlets 
pro and con were published on the subject, and some by good 
Quakers in favor of defense, which I believe convinced most of 
their younger people. 

A transaction in our fire company gave me some insight into 
their prevaihng sentiments. It had been proposed that we should 
encourage the scheme for building a battery, by laying out the 
present stock, then about sixty pounds, in tickets of the lottery. 
By our rules no money could be disposed of till the next meeting 
after the proposal. The company consisted of thirty members, 
of which twenty-two were Quakers, and eight, only, of other per- 
suasions. We eight punctually attended the meeting ; but though 
we thought that some of the Quakers would join us, we were 
by no means sure of a majority. Only one Quaker, Mr. James 
Morris, appeared to oppose the measure. He expressed much 
sorrow that it had ever been proposed, as he said Friends were 
all against it, and it would create such discord as might break up 
the company. We told him that we saw no reason for that ; we 
were the minority, and if Friends were against the measure, and 
outvoted us, we must and should, agreeably to the usage of all soci- 
eties, submit. When the hour for business arrived it was moved 
to put the vote. He allowed we might then do it by the rules, 
but as he could assure us that a number of members intended to 
be present for the purpose of opposing it, it would be but candid 
to allow a httle time for their appearing. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1 2 9 

While we were disputing this a waiter came to tell me two gen- 
tlemen below desired to speak with me. I went down and found 
they were two of our Quaker members. They told me that there 
were eight of them assembled at a tavern just by ; that they were 
determined to come and vote with us if there should be occasion, 
which they hoped would not be the case, and desired we would 
not call for their assistance if we could do without it, as their vot- 
ing for such a measure might embroil them with their elders and 
friends. Being thus secure of a majority, I went up, and after a 
little seeming hesitation agreed to a delay of another hour. This 
Mr. Morris allowed to be extremely fair. Not one of his oppos- 
ing friends appeared, at which he expressed great surprise, and 
at the expiration of the hour we carried the resolution eight to 
one ; and as, of the twenty-two Quakers, eight were ready to vote 
with us, and thirteen by their absence manifested that they were 
not inclined to oppose the measure, I afterward estimated the pro- 
portion of Quakers sincerely against defense as one to twenty-one 
only ; for these were all regular members of that society, and in 
good reputation among them, and had due notice of what was pro- 
posed at that meeting. 

The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always been 
of that sect, was one who wrote an address to them, declaring 
his approbation of defensive war and supporting his opinion by 
many strong arguments. He put into my hands sixty pounds to 
be laid out in lottery tickets for the battery, with directions to 
apply what prizes might be drawn wholly to that service. He 
told me the following anecdote of his old master, William Penn, 
respecting defense. He came over from England, when a young 
man, with that proprietary, and as his secretary. It was war time, 
and their ship was chased by an armed vessel, supposed to be an 
enemy. Their captain prepared for defense, but told William 
Penn and his company of Quakers that he did not expect their 
assistance, and they might retire into the cabin ; which they did, 
except James Logan, who chose to stay upon deck, and was quar- 
tered to a gun. The supposed enemy proved a friend, so there 
9 



130 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was no fighting ; but when the secretary went down to communi- 
cate the intelHgence, Wilham Penn rebuked him severely for stay- 
ing upon deck and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel, 
contrary to the principles of Friends, especially as it had not been 
required by the captain. This reproof, being before all the com- 
pany, piqued the secretary, who answered : '' I being thy ser- 
vant, why did thee not order me to come do^^m? But thee was 
willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when 
thee thought there was danger." 

My being many years in the Assembly, the majority of which 
were constantly Quakers, gave me frequent opportunities of see- 
ing the embarrassment given them by their principle against war 
whenever application was made to them, by order of the Crown, 
to grant aids for mihtary purposes. They were unwilling to 
offend government, on the one hand, by a direct refusal, and their 
friends, the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance 
contrary to their principles ; hence a variety of evasions to avoid 
complying, and modes of disguising the compliance when it be- 
came unavoidable. The common mode at last was to grant 
money under the phrase of its being '' for the King's use," and 
never to inquire how it was applied. 

But if the demand Avas not directly from the Crown, that phrase 
was found not so proper, and some other was to be invented. 
As, when powder was wanting (I think it was for the garrison at 
Louisburg^), and the government of New England sohcited a 
grant of some from Pennsylvania, which was much urged on the 
House by Governor Thomas, they could not grant money to buy 
powder, because that was an ingredient of war ; but they voted 
an aid to New England of three thousand pounds, to be put into 
the hands of the governor, and appropriated it for the purchasing 
of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. Some of the council, de- 
sirous of giving the House still further embarrassment, advised 
the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he 
had demanded ; but he repHed : '' I shall take the money, for I 
1 See Note 2, p. 181. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 131 

understand very well their meaning ; ' other grain ' is gunpowder/' 
which he accordingly bought, and they never objected to it. 

It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our fire company 
we feared the success of our proposal in favor of the lottery, and 
I had said to my friend Mr. Syng, one of our members : '^ If we 
fail, let us move the purchase of a fire engine with the money ; the 
Quakers can have no objection to that ; and then, if you nominate 
me and I you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy a 
great gun, which is certainly a fire engine," — '^ I see," says he, 
''you have improved by being so long in the Assembly; your 
equivocal project would be just a match for their ' wheat or other 
grain.* " 

These embarrassments that the Quakers suffered from having 
established and published it as one of their principles that no kind 
of war was lawful, and which, being once published, they could 
not afterward, however they might change their minds, easily get 
rid of, reminds me of what I think a more prudent conduct in 
another sect among us, that of the Dunkers.^ I was acquainted 
with one of its founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appeared. 
He complained to me that they were grievously calumniated by 
the zealots of other persuasions, and charged with abominable 
principles and practices to which they were utter strangers. I 
told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that, 
to put a stop to such abuse, I imagined it might be well to pub- 
lish the articles of their belief and the rules of their discipline. 
He said that it had been proposed among them, but not agreed 
to, for this reason : '' When we were first drawn together as a 
society," says he, ''it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so 
far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, 
were errors ; and that others, which we have esteemed errors, were 
real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us 
further light, and our principles have been improving and our er- 
rors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the 

1 A sect of German -American Baptists, whose name comes from the Ger- 
man tunken (*' to immerse "). 



132 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

end of this progression and at the perfection of spiritual or theo- 
logical knowledge, and we fear that if we should once print our 
confession of faith we should feel ourselves as if bound and con- 
fined by it, and perhaps be unwilhng to receive further improve- 
ment, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we, 
their elders and founders, had done to be something sacred, never 
to be departed from." 

This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the his- 
tory of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession of 
all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong. Like 
a man traveling in foggy weather ; those at some distance before 
him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog as well as those 
behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but 
near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the 
fog as any of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment the 
Quakers have of late years been gradually declining the pubhc 
service in the Assembly and in the magistracy, choosing rather to 
quit their power than their principle. 

In order of time I should have mentioned before that, having 
in 1742 invented an open stove ^ for the better warming of rooms 
and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was 
warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert 
Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron furnace, 
found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, 
as they were growing in demand.^ To promote that demand I 
wrote and pubHshed a pamphlet entided, ''An Account of the 
new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces ; wherein their Construc- 
tion and ]\Ianner of Operation is particularly explained; their 
Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demon- 
strated ; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use 
of them answered and obviated," etc. This pamphlet had a good 
effect. Governor Thomas was so pleased with the construction 
of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a 
patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years ; but I de- 

1 It is still used, and called the ** Franklin stove." 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 133 

dined it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such 
occasions ; namely, that as we enjoy great advantages from the in- 
ventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve 
others by any invention of ours ; and this we should do freely and 
generously. 

An ironmonger in London, however, assuming a good deal of 
my pamphlet, and working it up into his own, and making some 
small changes in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got 
a patent for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune by 
it. And this is not the only instance of patents taken out for my 
inventions by others, — though not always with the same success, 
— which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by pat- 
ents myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in 
very many houses, both of this and the neighboring colonies, has 
been and is a great saving of wood to the inhabitants. 



§ 7. PROJECTS FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD. 

PEACE being concluded, and the association business there- 
fore at an end, I turned my thoughts again to the affair of 
establishing an academy. The first step I took was to associate 
in the design a number of active friends, of whom the Junto 
furnished a good part. The next was to write and publish a 
pamphlet entitled '' Proposals relating to the Education of Youth 
in Pennsylvania." This I distributed among the principal in- 
habitants gratis ; and as soon as I could suppose their minds 
a little prepared by the perusal of it, I set on foot a subscription 
for opening and supporting an academy. It was to be paid in 
quotas yearly for five years. By so dividing it I judged the sub- 
scription might be larger, and I believe it was so, amounting to 
no less, if I remember right, than five thousand pounds. 

In the introduction to these Proposals I stated their publication, 
not as an act of mine, but of some '' public-spirited gentlemxen." 



134 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the pre- 
senting myself to the pubhc as the author of any scheme for their 
benefit. 

The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate execution, 
chose out of their number twenty-four trustees, and appointed 
]\Ir. Francis, then attorney-general, and myself to draw up con- 
stitutions for the government of the academy ; which being done 
and signed, a house was hired, masters engaged, and the schools 
opened, I think, in the same year, 1749. 

The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon found too 
small, and we were looking out for a piece of ground, properly 
situated, with intention to build, when Providence threw into our 
way a large house ready built, which, with a few alterations, might 
well serve our purpose. This was the building before mentioned, 
erected by the hearers of Mr. Whitefield,i and was obtained for 
us in the following manner. 

It is to be noted that the contributions to this building being 
made by people of different sects, care was taken in the nomina- 
tion of trustees, in whom the building and ground was to be 
vested, that a predominancy should not be given to any sect, lest 
in time that predominancy might be a means of appropriating the 
whole to the use of such sect, contrary to the original intention. 
It was therefore that one of each sect was appointed ; namely, 
one Church of England man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one 
Moravian,- etc. ; those, in case of vacancy by death, were to fill 
it by election from among the contributors. The Moravian hap- 
pened not to please his colleagues, and on his death they resolved 
to have no other of that sect. The difficulty then was, how to 
avoid having two of some other sect by means of the new choice. 

Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed to. 
At length one mentioned me, with the obser^^ation that I was 

1 It stood on Fourth Street, below Arch. 

2 A member of a denomination which has its name from Moravia, a divi- 
sion of Austria- Hungary. For an account of their home and practices, see 
pp. 168-170. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. I35 

merely an honest man and of no sect at all, which prevailed with 
them to choose me. The enthusiasm which existed when the 
house was built had long since abated, and its trustees had not 
been able to procure fresh contributions for paying the ground 
rent and discharging some other debts the building had occa- 
sioned, which embarrassed them greatly. Being now a member 
of both sets of trustees, that for the building and that for the 
academy, I had a good opportimity of negotiating with both, and 
brought them finally to an agreement, by which the trustees for 
the building were to cede it to those of the academy, the latter 
undertaking to discharge the debt, to keep forever open in the 
building a large hall for occasional preachers, according to the 
original intention, and maintain a free school for the instruction 
of poor children. Writings were accordingly drawn, and on pay- 
ing the debts the trustees of the academy were put in possession 
of the premises ; and by dividing the great and lofty hall into 
stories, and different rooms above and below for the several 
schools, and purchasing some additional ground, the whole was 
soon made fit for our purpose, and the scholars removed into the 
building. The care and trouble of agreeing with the workmen, 
purchasing materials, and superintending the work, fell upon me ; 
and I went through it the more cheerfully as it did not then in- 
terfere with my private business, having the year before taken a 
very able, industrious, and honest partner, Mr. David Hall, with 
whose character I was well acquainted, as he had worked for me 
four years. He took off my hands all care of the printing oflBce, 
paying me punctually my share of the profits. This partnership 
continued eighteen years, successfully for us both. 

The trustees of the academy after a while w^ere incorporated 
by a charter from the government ; their funds were increased by 
contributions in Britain and grants of land from the proprietaries, 
to which the Assembly has since made considerable addition ; and 
thus was established the present University of Philadelphia. I 
have been continued one of its trustees from the beginning, now 
near forty years, and have had the very great pleasure of seeing 



136 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

a number of the youth who have received their education in it 
distinguished by their improved abihties, serviceable in pubhc 
stations, and ornaments to their country. 

When I disengaged myself as above mentioned from private 
business, I flattered myself that, by the sufficient though moderate 
fortune I had acquired, I had secured leisure during the rest of 
my hfe for philosophical studies and amusements. I purchased 
all Dr. Spence's apparatus, who had come from England to lec- 
ture here, and I proceeded in my electrical experiments with great 
alacrity. But the public, now considering me as a man of leisure, 
laid hold of me for their purposes, every part of our civil govern- 
ment, and almost at the same time, imposing some duty upon me. 
The governor put me into the commission of the peace, the cor- 
poration of the city chose me of the common council and soon 
after an alderman, and the citizens at large chose me a burgess ^ 
to represent them in Assembly. This latter station was the more 
agreeable to me, as I was at length tired with sitting there to hear 
debates in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were 
often so unentertaining that I was induced to amuse myself with 
making magic squares - or circles, or anything to avoid weariness ; 
and I conceived my becoming a member would enlarge my power 
of doing good. I would not, however, insinuate that miy ambi- 
tion was not flattered by all these promotions. It certainly 
was, for, considering my low beginning, they were great things to 
me, and they were still more pleasing as being so many sponta- 
neous testimonies of the public good opinion, and by me entirely 
unsoHcited. 

The office of justice of the peace I tried a little by attending a 
few courts and sitting on the bench to hear causes ; but finding 

1 A representative in the lower house of the legislature. 

2 '' Magic squares," i.e., square figures of a series of numbers so disposed 
that the sums of each row or line, taken in any direction, are equal. ^^lagic 
squares are also formed of words or phrases so arranged as to read the same 
in all directions. The magic circle is a modification of the magic square, one 
form of which was devised by Franklin. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 137 

that more knowledge of the common law than I possessed was 
necessary to act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew 
from it, excusing myself by my being obliged to attend the higher 
duties of a legislator in the Assembly. My election to this trust 
was repeated every year for ten years without my ever asking any 
elector for his vote, or signifying, either directly or indirectly, any 
desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House my son 
was appointed their clerk. 

The year following, a treaty being to be held with the Indians 
at Carhsle, the governor sent a message to the House, proposing 
that they should nominate some of their members, to be joined 
with some members of council, as commissioners for that pur- 
pose. The House named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself; 
and, being commissioned, we went to Carlisle and met the Indians 
accordingly. 

As those people are extremely apt to get drunk, and when so 
are very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbade the sell- 
ing any liquor to them ; and when they complained of this restric- 
tion, we told them that if they would continue sober during the 
treaty, we would give them plenty of rum when business was over. 
They promised this, and they kept their promise, because they 
could get no liquor, and the treaty was conducted very orderly, 
and concluded to mutual satisfaction. They then claimed and 
received the rum. 

This was in the afternoon ; they were near one hundred men, 
women, and children, and were lodged in temporary cabins, built 
in the form of a square, just without the town. In the evening, 
hearing a great noise among them, the commissioners walked out 
to see what was the matter. We found they had made a great 
bonfire in the middle of the square. They were all drunk, men 
and women, quarreling and fighting. Their dark colored bodies, 
half naked, seen only by the gloomy hght of the bonfire, running 
after and beating one another with firebrands, accompanied by 
their horrid yellings, formed a scene the most resembling our 
ideas of hell that could well be imagined. There was no appeas- 



138 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ing the tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At midnight a 
number of them came thundering to our door, demanding more 
rum, of which we took no notice. 

The next day, sensible they had misbehaved in giving us that 
disturbance, they sent three of their old counselors to make their 
apology. The orator acknowledged the fault, but laid it upon 
the rum ; and then endeavored to excuse the rum by saying : '' The 
Great Spirit, who made all things, made everything for some use, 
and whatever use he designed anything for, that use it should 
always be put to. Now when he made rum he said, ' Let this 
be for the Indians to get drunk with,' and it must be so." And, 
indeed, if it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages 
in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not im- 
probable that rum may be the appointed means. It has already 
annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the seacoast. 

In 1 75 1 Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend of mine, con- 
ceived the idea of establishing a hospital in Philadelphia (a very 
beneficent design which has been ascribed to me but was origi- 
nally his) for the reception and cure of poor sick persons, whether 
inhabitants of the province or strangers. He was zealous and ac- 
tive in endeavoring to procure subscriptions for it, but the pro- 
posal being a novelty in America, and at first not well understood, 
he met with but small success. 

At length he came to me with the compliment that he found 
there was no such thing as carrying a public-spirited project 
through without my being concerned in it. '^ P'or," says he, '' I 
am often asked by those to whom I propose subscribing, ' Have 
you consulted Frankhn upon this business ? And what does he 
think of it ? ' And when I tell them that I have not (supposing 
it rather out of your line), they do not subscribe, but say they 
will consider of it." I inquired into the nature and probable 
utility of his scheme, and receiving from him a very satisfactory 
explanation, I not only subscribed to it myself, but engaged heart- 
ily in the design of procuring subscriptions from others. Previ- 
ously, however, to the sohcitation, I endeavored to prepare the 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1 39 

minds of the people by writing on the subject in the newspapers, 
which was my usual custom in such cases, but which he had 
omitted. 

The subscriptions afterward were more free and generous ; but, 
beginning to flag, I saw they would be insufficient without some 
assistance from the Assembly, and therefore proposed to petition 
for it, which was done. The country members did not at first 
rehsh the project. They objected that it could only be service- 
able to the city, and therefore the citizens alone should be at the 
expense of it ; and they doubted whether the citizens themselves 
generally approved of it. My allegation on the contrary, that 
it met with such approbation as to leave no doubt of our being 
able to raise two thousand pounds by voluntary donations, they 
considered as a most extravagant supposition and utterly im- 
possible. 

On this I formed my plan ; and, asking leave to bring in a bilU 
for incorporating the contributors according to the prayer of their 
petition, and granting them a blank sum of money, which leave 
was obtained chiefly on the consideration that the House could 
throw the bill out if they did not like it, I drew it so as to make 
the important clause a conditional one, namely : '' And be it en- 
acted, by the authority aforesaid, that when the said contributors 
shall have met and chosen their managers and treasurer, and shall 

have raised by their contributions a capital stock of value ^ (the 

yearly interest of which is to be applied to the accommodating of 
the sick poor in the said hospital, free of charge for diet, attend- 
ance, advice, and medicines,) and shall make the same appear to the 
satisfaction of the speaker of the Asseinbly for the time beings that 
then it shall and may be lawful for the said speaker, and he is here- 
by required, to sign an order on the provincial treasurer for the pay- 
ment of two thousand pounds, in two yearly payments, to the treas- 
urer of the said hospital, to be applied to the founding, building, 
and finishing of the same." 

This condition carried the bill, through ; for the members who 

1 A form or draft of the law, presented to the legislature for adoption. 



140 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

had opposed the grant, and now conceived they might have the 
credit of being charitable without the expense, agreed to its pas- 
sage ; and then, in soHciting subscriptions among the people, we 
urged the conditional promise of the law as an additional motive 
to give, since every man's donation would be doubled ; thus the 
clause worked both ways. The subscriptions accordingly soon 
exceeded the requisite sum, and we claimed and received the 
public gift, which enabled us to carry the design into execution. 
A convenient and handsome building was soon erected; the 
institution has, by constant experience, been found useful, and 
flourishes to this day ; and I do not remember any of my political 
maneuvers the success of which gave me at the time more pleas- 
ure, or wherein, after thinking of it, I more easily excused myself 
for having made some use of cunning. 

It was about this time that another projector, the Rev. Gilbert 
Tennent, came to me with a request that I would assist him in 
procuring a subscription for erecting a new meetinghouse. It 
was to be for the use of a congregation he had gathered among 
the Presbyterians who were originally disciples of Mr. Whitefield. 
Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by 
too frequently soHciting their contributions, I absolutely refused. 
He then desired I would furnish him with a list of the names 
of persons I knew by experience to be generous and pubhc- 
spirited. I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their 
kind compliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to be 
worried by other beggars, and therefore refused also to give such 
a list. He then desired I would at least give him my advice. 
'^ That I will readily do," said I ; '' and in the first place, I advise 
you to apply to all those whom you know will give something ; 
next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give any- 
thing or not, and show them the list of those who have given ; and, 
lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will gw^ nothing, for 
in some of them you may be mistaken." He laughed and thanked 
me, and said he would take my advice. He did so, for he asked of 
everybody, and he obtained a much larger sum than he expected, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 141 

with which he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting- 
house that stands in Arch Street.^ 

Our city, though laid out with a beautiful regularity, the streets 
large, straight, and crossing each other at right angles, had the 
disgrace of suffering those streets to remain long unpaved, and in 
wet weather the wheels of heavy carriages plowed them into a 
quagmire, so that it was difficult to cross them, and in dry weather 
the dust was offensive. I had lived near what was called the 
Jersey i\Iarket, and saw with pain the inhabitants wading in mud 
while purchasing their provisions. A strip of ground down the 
middle of that market was at length paved with brick, so that, 
being once in the market, they had firm footing, but were often 
over shoes in dirt to get there. By talking and writing on the 
subject I was at length instrumental in getting the street paved 
with stone between the market and the bricked foot pavement that 
was on each side next the houses. This for some time gave an 
easy access to the market, dry-shod ; but, the rest of the street not 
being paved, whenever a carriage came out of the mud upon this 
pavement, it shook off and left its dirt upon it, and it was soon 
covered with mxire, which was not removed, the city as yet hav- 
ing no scavengers. 

After some inquiry I found a poor, industrious man, who was 
willing to undertake keeping the pavement clean by sweeping it 
twice a week, carrying off the dirt from before all the neighbors' 
doors for the sum of sixpence per month to be paid by each 
house. ^ I then wrote and printed a paper setting forth the ad- 
vantages to the neighborhood that might be obtained by this 
small expense : the greater ease in keeping our houses clean, 
so much dirt not being brought in by people's feet ; the benefit 
to the shops by more custom, etc., as buyers could more easily 
get at them, and by not having, in windy weather, the dust 
blown in upon their goods, etc. I sent one of these papers to 
each house, and in a day or two went round to see who would 

1 The church of this society is now on the corner of \Valnut and Twenty- 
first Streets. 



142 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

subscribe an agreement to pay these sixpences. It was unani- 
mously signed, and for a time well executed. All the inhabitants 
of the city were delighted with the cleanliness of the pavement 
that surrounded the market, it being a convenience to all ; and 
this raised a general desire to have all the streets paved, and made 
the people more wilhng to submit to a tax for that purpose. 

After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and brought 
it into the Assembly. It was just before I went to England in 
1757, and did not pass till I was gone, and then with an altera- 
tion in the mode of assessment which I thought not for the better, 
but with an additional provision for lighting as well as paving the 
streets, which was a great improvement. It was by a private 
person, the late Mr. John Clifton, — his giving a sample of the 
utility of lamps by placing one at his door, — that the people 
were first impressed with the idea of enlighting all the city. The 
honor of this public benefit has also been ascribed to me, but it 
belongs truly to that gentleman. I did but follow his example, 
and have only some merit to claim respecting the form of our 
lamps, as differing from the globe lamps we were at first supphed 
with from London. Those we found inconvenient in these re- 
spects : they admitted no air below ; the smoke, therefore, did not 
readily go out above, but circulated in the globe, lodged on its 
inside, and soon obstructed the hght they were intended to afford, 
giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping them clean ; and an 
accidental stroke on one of them would demohsh it and render 
it totally useless. I therefore suggested the composing them of 
four flat panes, with a long funnel above to draw up the smoke, 
and crevices admitting air below to facihtate the ascent of the 
smoke. By this means they were kept clean, and did not grow 
dark in a few hours, as the London lamps do, but continued 
bright till morning, and an accidental stroke would generally 
break but a single pane, easily repaired. 

I have sometimes wondered that the Londoners did not, from 
the effect holes in the bottom of the globe lamps used at Vauxhall ^ 
1 Pleasure gardens in the London of Franklin's day. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 143 

have in keeping them clean, learn to have such holes in their 
street lamps. But, these holes being made for another purpose, 
namely, to communicate flame more suddenly to the wick by a 
little flax hanging down through them, the other use, of letting in 
air, seems not to have been thought of ; and therefore, after the 
lamps have been lit a few hours, the streets of London are very 
poorly illuminated. 

The mention of these improvements puts me in mind of one I 
proposed, when in London, to Dr. Fothergill, who was among the 
best men I have known, and a great promoter of useful projects. 
I had observed that the streets, when dry, were never swept, and 
the light dust carried away ; but it was suffered to accumulate till 
wet weather reduced it to mud, and then, after lying some days 
so deep on the pavement that there was no crossing but in paths 
kept clean by poor people with brooms, it was with great labor 
raked together and thrown up into carts open above, the sides of 
which suffered some of the slush at every jolt on the pavement to 
shake out and fall, sometimes to the annoyance of foot passengers. 
The reason given for not sweeping the dusty streets was that the 
dust would fly into the windows of shops and houses. 

An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much sweep- 
ing might be done in a little time. I found at my door in Craven 
Street ^ one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with 
a birch broom. She appeared very pale and feeble, as just come 
out of a fit of sickness. I asked who employed her to sweep 
there. She said, '^ Nobody ; but I am very poor and in distress, 
and I sweeps before gentlefolkses doors, and hopes they will give 
me something." I bid her sweep the whole street clean, and I 
would give her a shilling. This was at nine o'clock ; at twelve she 
■came for the shilling. From the slowness I saw at first in her 
working I could scarce believe that the work was done so soon, 
■and sent my servant to examine it, who reported that the whole 
street was swept perfectly clean, and all the dust placed in the 
gutter, which was in the middle ; and the next rain washed it 

1 A street in London in which Franklin had apartments. 



144 TH^ AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

quite away, so that the pavement, and even the kennel,^ were 
perfectly clean. 

I then judged that if that feeble woman could sweep such a 
street in three hours, a strong, active man might have done it in 
half the time. And here let me remark the convenience of having 
but one gutter in such a narrow street, running down its middle, 
instead of two, one on each side, near the footway ; for where all 
the rain that falls on a street runs from the sides and meets in the 
middle, it forms there a current strong enough to wash away all 
the mud it meets with ; but when divided into two channels, it is 
often too weak to cleanse either, and only makes the mud it finds 
more fluid, so that the wheels of carriages and feet of horses throw 
and dash it upon the foot pavement, which is thereby rendered 
foul and slippery, and sometimes splash it upon those who are 
walking. My proposal communicated to the good doctor was as 
follows : 

" For the more effectual cleaning and keeping clean the streets 
of London and Westminster - it is proposed that the several watch- 
men be contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, 
and the mud raked up at other times, each in the several streets 
and lanes of his round ; that they be furnished with brooms and 
other proper instruments for these purposes, to be kept at their 
respective stands, ready to furnish the poor people they may em- 
ploy in the service. 

'' That in the dry summer months the dust be all swept up into 
heaps at proper distances, before the shops and windows of houses 
are usually opened, when the scavengers, with close-covered carts, 
shall also carry it all away. 

" That the mud, when raked up, be not left in heaps to be 
spread abroad again by the wheels of carriages and trampling of 
horses, but that the scavengers be provided with bodies of carts, 
not placed high upon wheels, but low upon sliders, with lattice 
bottoms, which, being covered with straw, will retain the mud 

1 Little channel or gutter. 

2 Now a part of London, tut formerly a separate corporatioiL 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 145 

thrown into them, and permit the water to drain from it, whereby 
it will become much lighter, water making the greatest part of its 
weight ; these bodies of carts to be placed at convenient distances, 
and the mud brought to them in wheelbarrows, they remaining 
where placed till the mud is drained, and then horses brought to 
draw them away." 

I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter part 
of this proposal, on account of the narrowness of some streets, and 
the difficulty of placing the draining sleds so as not to encumber 
too much the passage ; but I am still of opinion that the former, 
requiring the dust to be swept up and carried away before the 
shops are open, is very practicable in summer, when the days are 
long; for, in walking through the Strand and Fleet Street one 
morning at seven o'clock, I observed there was not one shop open, 
though it had been daylight and the sun up above three hours, 
the inhabitants of London choosing voluntarily to live much by 
candlelight and sleep by sunshine ; and yet they often complain, 
a little absurdly, of the duty on candles and the high price of 
tallow. 

Some may think these trifling matters, not worth minding or re- 
lating; but when they consider that though dust blown into the 
eyes of a single person, or into a single shop, on a windy day is 
but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in 
a populous city, and its frequent repetitions, give it weight and 
consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those 
who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. 
Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good 
fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur 
every day. Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave him- 
self and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the 
happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. The 
money may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having 
foolishly consumed it ; but in the other case, he escapes the fre- 
quent vexation of waiting for barbers, and of their sometimes 
dirty fingers, offensive breaths, and dull razors. He shaves when 
10 



146 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure of its being 
done widi a good instrument. ^ Widi these sentiments I have 
hazarded the few preceding pages, hoping they may afford hints 
which some time or other may be useful to a city I love, having 
lived many years in it very happily, and perhaps to some of our 
towns in America. 

Having been for some time employed by the postmaster-gen- 
eral of America as his comptroller ^ in regulating several ofhces, 
and bringing the officers to account, I was, upon his death, in 
1753, appointed, jointly with Mr. Wilham Hunter, to succeed 
him, by a commission from the postmaster-general in England. 
The American office never had hitherto paid anything to that of 
Great Britain. We were to have six hundred pounds a year be- 
tween us, if we could make that sum out of the profits of the 
office. To do this a variety of improvements were necessary. 
Some of these were inevitcibly at first expensive, so that in the 
first four years the office became above nine hundred pounds in 

1 *' From the manuscript journal of Mr. Andrew Ellicott," says Mr. John 
Bigelow in one of his editions of the Autobiography, *' I have been kindly 
favored by ]\Ir. J. C. G. Kennedy, of Washington, one of his descendants, 
with the following extract, which was written three years before the preceding 
paragraph in the Autobiography : 

** ' I found him [Franklin] in his little room among his papers. He received 
me very politely, and immediately entered into conversation about the west- 
ern country. His room makes a singular appearance, being filled with old 
philosophical instruments, papers, boxes, tables, and stools. About ten 
o'clock he placed some water on the fire, but not being expert through his 
great age, I desired him to give me the pleasure of assisting him. He thanked 
me, and replied that he ever made it a point to wait upon himself, and, al- 
though he began to find himself infirm, he was determined not to increase his 
infirmities by giving way to them. After the water was hot, I observed his 
object was to shave himself, which operation he performed without a glass 
and with great expedition. I asked him if he ever employed a barber ; he 
answered: ''No; I think happiness does not consist so much in particular 
pieces of good fortune, which perhaps occasionally fall to a man's lot, as to 
be able in his old age to do those little things which, being unable to perform 
himself, would be done by others with a sparing hand." ' " 

2 That is, he examined the accounts and managed the financial affairs. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 147 

debt to us ; but it soon after began to repay us, and before I 
was displaced by a freak of the ministers/ of which I shall speak 
hereafter, we had brought it to yield three times as much clear 
revenue to the Crown as the post office of Ireland. Since that 
imprudent transaction they have received from it — not one 
farthing ! 

The business of the post office occasioned my taking a journey 
this year to New England, where the College of Cambridge,^ of 
their own motion, presented me with the degree of Master of Arts. 
Yale College, in Connecticut, had before made me a similar com- 
pliment. Thus, without studying in any college, I came to par- 
take of their honors. They were conferred in consideration of 
my improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural 
philosophy. 

In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a congress 
of commissioners from the different colonies was, by an order of 
the Lords of Trade,^ to be assembled at Albany, there to confer 
with the chiefs of the Six Nations ^ concerning the means of de- 
fending both their coimtry and ours. Governor Hamilton, hav- 
ing received this order, acquainted the House with it, requesting 
they would furnish proper presents for the Indians, to be given on 
this occasion, and naming the speaker (Mr. N orris) and myself to 
join Mr. Thomas Penn and Mr. Secretary Peters as commissioners 
to act for Pennsylvania. The House approved the nomination, 
and provided the goods for the present, though they did not much 
like treating out of the provinces ; and we met the other commis- 
sioners at Albany about the middle of June. 

In our way thither I projected and drew a plan for the union 
of all the colonies under one government, so far as might be 

1 The ministers of the Crown in London. 

2 The college in Cambridge, Harvard College. 

3 The commissioners of trade, who lived in England, and to whom the colo- 
nial governors made their reports and returns. Their duty was *^to put 
things into a form and order of government that should always preserve these 
countries in obedience to the Crown." 

4 A union of six of the more considerable Indian tribes. 



148 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

necessary for defense and other important general purposes. As 
we passed through New York I had there shown my project to 
Mr. James Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gentlemen of great 
knowledge in public affairs ; and, being fortified by their approba- 
tion, I ventured to lay it before the congress. It then appeared 
that several of the commissioners had formed plans of the same 
kind. A previous question was first taken, whether a union 
should be estabhshed, which passed in the affirmative unani- 
mously. A committee was then appointed, one mem.ber from 
each colony, to consider the several plans and report. j\Iine 
happened to be preferred, and, with a few amendments, was 
accordingly reported. 

By this plan the general government was to be administered by 
a president-general, appointed and supported by the Crown, and 
a grand council was to be chosen by the representatives of the 
people of the several colonies, met in their respective assemblies. 
The debates upon it in congress went on daily, hand in hand with 
the Indian business. Many objections and difficulties were started, 
but at length they were all overcome, and the plan was unani- 
mously agreed to, and copies ordered to be transmitted to the 
Board of Trade and to the assemblies of the several provinces. 
Its fate was singular ; the assembhes did not adopt it, as they all 
thought there was too much prerogative ^ in it, and in England it 
w^as judged to have too much of the democratic.^ The Board of 
Trade, therefore, did not approve of it nor recommend it for the 
approbation of his Majesty ; but another scheme was formed, sup- 
posed to answer the same purpose better, whereby the governors 
of the provinces, with some members of their respective councils, 
were to meet and order the raising of troops, building of forts, 
etc., and to draw on the treasury of Great Britain for the expense, 
which was afterward to be refunded by an act of ParHament lay- 
ing a tax on America. My plan, with my reasons in support of 
it, is to be found among my poHtical papers that are printed. 

1 The power of the king. 

2 The government of the people. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 149 

Being the winter following in Boston, I had much conversation 
with Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part of what passed 
between us on the occasion may also be seen among those papers. 
The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan make 
me suspect that it was really the true medium, and I am still of 
opinion it would have been happy for both sides the water if it 
had been adopted. The colonies, so united, would have been 
sufficiently strong to defend themselves; there would then have 
been no need of troops from England. Of course the subsequent 
pretense for taxing America, and the bloody contest it occasioned, 
would have been avoided. But such mistakes are not new ; his- 
tory is full of the errors of states and princes. 

^^ Look round the habitable world, how few 

Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue ! " 

Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do 
not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carry- 
ing into execution new projects. The best pubhc measures are 
therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by 
the occasion. 

The governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down to the 
Assembly, expressed his approbation of the plan, as appearing 
to him to be drawn up with great clearness and strength of judg- 
ment, and therefore recommended it as ''well worthy of their 
closest and most serious attention." The House, however, by the 
management of a certain member, took it up when I happened to 
be absent, which I thought not very fair, and reprobated it without 
paying any attention to it at all, to my no small mortification. 

In my journey to Boston this year I mxct at New York with our 
new governor, Mr. Morris, just arrived there from England, with 
whom I had been before intimately acquainted. He brought a 
commission to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, tired with the dis- 
putes his proprietary instructions subjected him to, had resigned. 
Mr. Morris asked me if I thought he must expect as uncomfort- 
able an administration. I said, '' No ; you may, on the contrary, 



150 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

have a very comfortable one, if you will only take care not to 
enter into any dispute with the Assembly." '' My dear friend," 
says he, pleasantly, ''how can you advise my avoiding disputes? 
You know I love disputing ; it is one of my greatest pleasures. 
However, to show the regard I have for your counsel, I promise 
you I will, if possible, avoid them." He had some reason for lov- 
ing to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister, and therefore 
generally successful in argumentative conversation. He had been 
brought up to it from a boy, his father, as I have heard, accus- 
toming his children to dispute with one another for his diversion 
while sitting at table after dinner. But I think the practice was 
not wise ; for in the course of my obser^-ation, these disputing, 
contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in 
their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get 
good will, which would be of more use to them. We parted, he 
going to Philadelphia and I to Boston. 

In returning I met at New York with the votes of the Assem- 
bly, by which it appeared that, notwithstanding his promise to 
me, he and the House were already in high contention; and it 
was a continual battle between them as long as he retained the 
government. 

I had my share of it ; for, as soon as I got back to my seat 
in the Assembly, I was put on every committee for answering 
his speeches and messages, and by the committees always desired 
to make the drafts. Our answers, as well as his messages, were 
often tart, and sometimes indecently abusive, and, as he knew I 
wrote for the Assemblv, one mi^ht have imadned that when we 
met we could hardly avoid cutting throats ; but he was so good- 
natured a man that no personal difference between him and me 
was occasioned by the contest, and we often dined together. 

One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we met in 
the street. '' Franklin," says he, '' you must go home with me 
and spend the evening ; I am to have some company that you 
will like ;" and, taking me by the arm, he led me to his house. In 
gay conversation over our wine after supper, he told us jokingly 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 151 

that he much admired the idea of Sancho Panza,^ who, when it 
was proposed to give him a government, requested it might be a 
government of blacks, as then, if he could not agree with his 
people, he might sell them. One of his friends, who sat next 
to me, says, "' Franklin, why do you continue to side with these 
Quakers? Had not you better sell them? The proprietor would 
g\\^ you a good price." ''The governor," says I, ''has not yet 
blacked them enough." He, indeed, had labored hard to blacken 
the Assembly in all his messages, but they wiped off his coloring 
as fast as he laid it on, and placed it in return thick upon his own 
face ; so that, finding he was likely to be negrofied himself, he, as 
well as Mr. Hamilton, grew tired of the contest, and quitted the 
government. 

These public quarrels were all at bottom owing to the proprie- 
taries, our hereditary governors, who, when any expense was to 
be incurred for the defense of their province, with incredible 
meanness instructed their deputies^ to pass no act for levying 
the necessary taxes, unless their vast estates were in the same act 
expressly excused, and they had even taken bonds of these dep- 
uties to observe such instructions. The Assemblies for three 
years held out against this injustice, though constrained to bend 
at last. At length Captain Denny, who was Governor Morris's 
successor, ventured to disobey those instructions. How that was 
brought about I will show hereafter. 

But I am got forward too fast with my story. There are still 
some transactions to be mentioned that happened during the ad- 
ministration of Governor Morris. 

1 The squire of Don Quixote, to whom a duke jokingly granted the 
government of an island for a few days. This is one of the best-known 
episodes in that amusing history. 

2 The governors of the provinces, who were appointed by the proprietaries 
(see Note i, p. 58). 



152 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

§ 8. FRANKLIN ACTS IN CONCERT WITH BRADDOCK's ARMY. 
ORGANIZATION OF MILITIA. 

WAR being in a manner commenced with France,^ the gov- 
ernment of ^Massachusetts Bay projected an attack upon 
Crown Point/^ and sent Mr. Quincy to Pennsylvania, and ]\Ir. 
Pownall, afterward Governor Pownall, to New York, to soHcit 
assistance. As I was in the Assembly, knew its temper, and was 
]\Ir. Quincy's countryman,^ he applied to me for my influence 
and assistance. I dictated his address to them, which was well 
received. They voted an aid of ten thousand pounds, to be laid 
out in provisions ; but the governor refusing his assent to their 
bill (which included this with other sums granted for the use of 
the Crown), unless a clause were inserted exempting the proprie- 
tary estate ^ from bearing any part of the tax that would be neces- 
sary, the Assembly, though very desirous" of making their grant 
to New England effectual, were at a loss how to accomplish it. 
Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his assent, 
but he was obstinate. 

I then suggested a method of doing the business without the 
governor, by orders on the trustees of the Loan Office,^ which, 
by law, the Assembly had the right of drawing. There was, in- 
deed, little or no money at that time in the office, and therefore 
I proposed that the orders should be payable in a year, and to 
bear an interest of iive per cent. With these orders I supposed 
the provisions might easily be purchased. The Assembly, with 
very little hesitation, adopted the proposal. The orders w^ere 

1 In 1752 the French began connecting their settlements on the Lakes 
and on the Mississippi by a chain of forts on the Ohio. The English warned 
off the intruders upon what they deemed their territory, and sent General 
Braddock to the colonists' aid. War was declared in 1 756. 

2 A French fort upon the west side of Lake Champlain. 

3 That is, he was born in Boston. 

4 The estate of the Penn family. 

5 Through which the people loaned money to the government. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 153 

immediately printed, and I was one of the committee directed to 
sign and dispose of them. The fund for paying them was the 
interest of all the paper currency then extant in the province upon 
loan, together with the revenue arising from the excise,^ vrhich 
being known to be more than sufficient, they obtained instant 
credit, and were not only received in payment for the provisions, 
but many moneyed people who had cash lying by them invested 
it in those orders, which they found advantageous, as they bore 
interest while upon hand and might on any occasion be used as 
money; so that they were eagerly all bought up, and in a few 
weeks none of them were to be seen. Thus this important affair 
was by my means completed. Mr. Quincy returned thanks to 
the Assembly in a handsome memorial, went home highly pleased 
with the success of his embassy, and ever after bore for me the 
most cordial and affecting friendship. 

The British government, not choosing to permit the union of 
the colonies as proposed at Albany, and to trust that union with 
their defense, lest they should thereby grow too military and feel 
their own strength, suspicions and jealousies at this time being 
entertained of them, sent over General Braddock with two regi- 
ments of regular English troops for that purpose. He landed at 
Alexandria, in Virginia, and thence marched to Fredericktown, in 
Mar}4and, where he halted for carriages. ^ Our Assembly, appre- 
hending from some information that he had conceived violent 
prejudices against them as averse to the service, wished me to 
wait upon him, not as from them, but as postmaster-general, 
under the guise of proposing to settle w^ith him the mode of con- 
ducting with most celerity and certainty the dispatches between 
him and the governors of the several provinces, with whom he 
must necessarily have continual correspondence, and of which 
they proposed to pay the expense. My son accompanied me on 
this journey. 

We found the general at Fredericktown, waiting impatiently for 

1 A tax or duty on certain home productions* 

2 Gun carriages, transport wagons, etc. 



154 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the return of those he had sent through the back parts of Mary- 
land and Virginia to collect wagons. I stayed with him several 
days, dined with him daily, and had full opportunity of removing 
all his prejudices by the information of what the Assembly had 
before his arrival actually done, and were still wilhng to do, to 
facilitate his operations. AVhen I was about to depart, the returns 
of wagons to be obtained were brought in, by which it appeared 
that they amounted only to twenty-five, and not all of those were 
in serviceable condition. The general and all the officers were 
surprised, declared the expedition was then at an end, being im- 
possible, and exclaimed against the ministers ^ for ignorantly 
landing them in a country destitute of the means of conveying 
their stores, baggage, etc., not less than one hundred and fifty 
wagons being necessary. 

I happened to say I thought it was pity they had not been 
landed rather in Pennsylvania, as in that country almost every 
farmer had his wagon. The general eagerly laid hold of my 
words, and said : '' Then you, sir, who are a man of interest there, 
can probably procure them for us, and I beg you will undertake 
it." I asked what terms were to be offered the owners of the 
wagons, and I was desired to put on paper the terms that ap- 
peared to me necessary. This I did, and they were agreed to, 
and a commission and instructions accordingly prepared imme- 
diately. What those terms were will appear in the advertisement 
I published as soon as I arrived at Lancaster, which being, from 
the great and sudden effect it produced, a piece of some curiosity, 
I shall insert it at length as follows : 

Advertisement. 

Lancaster, April 26, 1755. 

Whereas, one hundred and fifty wagons, with four horses to each wagon, 
and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service of his 
Majesty's forces now about to rendezvous at Will's Creek, and his Excellency, 
General Braddock, having been pleased to empower me to contract for the 
hire of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall attend for that purpose at 

1 Of the government at London, as on p. 147. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 155 

Lancaster from this day to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next 
Thursday morning till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for 
wagons and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, viz. : I. That 
there shall be paid for each wagon, with four good horses and a driver, fifteen 
shillings per diem;l and for each able horse with a pack saddle, or other sad- 
dle and furniture, two shillings per diem ; and for each able horse without a 
saddle, eighteenpence per diem. 2. That the pay commence from the time 
of their joining the forces at Will's Creek, which must be on or before the 
20th of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and above 
for the time necessary for their traveling to Will's Creek and home again after 
their discharge. 3. Each wagon and team, and every saddle or pack horse, 
is to be valued by indifferent 2 persons chosen between me and the owner ; and 
in case of the loss of any wagon, team, or other horse in the service, the price 
according to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days' pay is 
to be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each wagon and team, 
or horse, at the time of contracting, if required, and the remainder to be paid 
by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army, at the time of their 
discharge, or from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of 
wagons, or persons taking care of the hired horses, are on any account to be 
called upon to do the duty of soldiers, or be otherwise employed than in con- 
ducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian corn, 
or other forage that wagons or horses bring to the camp, more than is neces- 
sary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use of the army, 
and a reasonable price paid for the same. 

Note. — My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like con- 
tracts with any person in Cumberland County. 

B. Fraxklin. 

To THE Inhabitants of the Counties of Lancaster, York, and 
Cumberland. 

Friends and Countrymen : Being occasionally at the camp at Frederick, 
a few days since, I found the general and officers extremely exasperated on ac- 
count of their not being supplied with horses and carriages, which had been 
expected from this province, as most able to furnish them ; but, through the 
dissensions between our governor and Assembly, money had not been pro- 
vided, nor any steps taken for that purpose. 

It was proposed to send an armed force immediately into these counties, to 
seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be wanted, and com- 
pel as many persons into the service as would be necessary to drive and take 
care of them. 

1 *' Per diem," i.e., a day, or per day. 2 Disinterested. 



156 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers through these counties 
on such an occasion, especially considering the temper they are in, and their 
resentment against us, would be attended with many and great inconveniences 
to the inhabitants, and therefore more willingly took the trouble of trying first 
what might be done by fair and equitable means. The people of these back 
counties have lately complained to the Assembly that a sufficient currency was 
wanting. You have an opportunity of receiving and dividing among you a 
very considerable sum ; for, if the service of this expedition should continue, 
as it is more than probable it will, for one hundred and twenty days, the hire 
of these wagons and horses will amount to upward of thirty thousand pounds, 
which will be paid you in silver and gold of the king's money. 

The service will be light and easy, for the army will scarce march above 
twelve miles per day, and the wagons and baggage horses, as they carry those 
things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare of the army, must march 
with the army, and no faster ; and are, for the army's sake, always placed 
where they can be most secure, whether in a march or in a camp. 

If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal subjects to his Majesty, 
you may now do a most acceptable service, and make it easy to yourselves ; 
for three or four of such as cannot separately spare from the business of their 
plantations a wagon and four horses and a driver, may do it together, one 
furnishing the wagon, another, one or two horses, and another, the driver, 
and divide the pay proportionately between you ; but if you do not this service 
to 3^our king and country voluntarily, when such good pay and reasonable 
terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be strongly suspected. The king's 
business must be done ; so many brave troops, come so far for your defense, 
must not stand idle through your backwardness to do what maybe reasonably 
expected from you ; wagons and horses niust be had ; violent measures will 
probably be used, and you will be left to seek for a recompense where you can 
find it, and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded. 

I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the satisfaction of en- 
deavoring to do good, I shall have only my labor for my pains. If this 
method of obtaining the wagons and horses is not likely to succeed, I am 
obliged to send word to the general in fourteen days ; and I suppose Sir John 
St. Clair, the hussar, 1 with a body of soldiers, w^ill immediately enter the 
province for the purpose, which I shall be sorry to hear, because I am very 
sincerely and truly your friend and wellwisher, 

B. Franklin. 

I received of the general about eight hundred pounds, to be 
disbursed in advance money to the wagon owners, etc. ; but that 

1 A member of the light cavalry. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 1 57 

sum being insufficient, I advanced upvrard of two hundred pounds 
more, and in two weeks the one hundred and fifty \vagons, vrith 
two hundred and fifty-nine carrying horses, ^ were on their march 
for the camp. The advertisement promised payment according 
to the valuation, in case any wagon or horse should be lost. The 
owners, however, aheging they did not know General Braddock, 
or what dependence might be had on his promise, insisted on my 
bond for the performance, which I accordingly gave them. 

While I w^as at the camp supping one evening with the officers 
of Colonel Dunbar's regiment, he represented to me his concern 
for the subalterns,^ who, he said, were generally not in affluence, 
and could ill afford, in this dear country, to lay in the stores that 
might be necessar}^ in so long a march through a wilderness, 
where nothing was to be purchased. I commiserated their case, 
and resolved to endeavor procuring them some relief. I said 
nothing, however, to him of my intention, but wrote the next 
morning to the committee of the Assembly who had the disposi- 
tion of some pubhc money, warmly recommending the case of 
these officers to their consideration, and proposing that a present 
should be sent them of necessaries and refreshments. I\Iy son, 
who had some experience of a camp hfe and of its wants, di'ew 
up a Hst for me, which I inclosed in my letter. The committee 
approved, and used such diligence that, conducted by my son, the 
stores arrived at the camp as soon as the wagons. They consisted 
of twenty parcels, each containing 

6 lbs. loaf sugar, I Gloucester cheese, 

6 lbs. good Muscovado 3 do., i keg containing 20 lbs. good butter, 

I lb. good green tea, 2 doz. old Madeira wine, 

I lb. good bohea do., 2 gals. Jamaica spirits, 

6 lbs. good ground coffee, I bottle flour of mustard, 

6 lbs. chocolate, 2 well-cured hams, 

\ CAVt. best white biscuit, \ doz. dried tongues, 

\ lb. pepper, 6 lbs. rice, 

I quart best white wine \dnegar, 6 lbs. raisins. 

1 " Carrying horses," i.e., carrying packs or burdens upon the back. 

2 Junior and subordinate officers. ^ ;Muscovado sugar is brown sugar. 



158 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

These twenty parcels, well packed, were placed on as many 
horses, each parcel, with the horse, being intended as a present 
for one officer. They were very thankfully received, and the kind- 
ness acknowledged by letters to me from the colonels of both 
regiments in the most grateful terms. The general, too, was 
highly satisfied with my conduct in procuring him the wagons, 
etc., and readily paid my account of disbursements, thanking me 
repeatedly, and requesting my further assistance in sending pro- 
visions after him. I undertook this also, and was busily employed 
in it till we heard of his defeat, advancing for the service, of my 
own money, upward of one thousand pounds sterling, of which I 
sent him an account. It came to his hands, luckily for me, a few 
days before the battle, and he returned me immediately an order 
on the paymaster for the round sum of one thousand pounds, 
leaving the remainder to the next account. I consider this pay- 
ment as good luck, having never been able to obtain that re- 
mainder, of which more hereafter. 

This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably 
have made a figure as a good officer in some European war. 
But he had too much self-confidence, too high an opinion of the 
validity of regular troops, and too mean a one of both Americans 
and Indians. George Croghan, our Indian interpreter, joined him 
on his march with one hundred of those people, who might have 
been of great use to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had 
treated them kindly ; but he slighted and neglected them, and 
they gradually left him. 

In conversation with him one day he was giving me some ac- 
count of his intended progress. '^ After taking Fort Duquesne," ^ 
says he, '' I am to proceed to Niagara ; and, having taken that, 
to Frontenac, if the season will allow time, and I suppose it will, 
for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days ; 
and then I see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.'* 
Having before revolved in my mind the long line his army must 

1 Upon the site of this fort Pittsburg is built. The French were also for- 
tified at Niagara and at Frontenac on Lake Ontario. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 159 

make in their march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them 
through the woods and bushes, and also what I had read of a 
former defeat of fifteen hundred French, who invaded the Iroquois 
country, I had conceived some doubts and some fears for the 
event of the campaign. But I ventured only to say: "To be 
sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne with these fine troops, 
so well provided with artillery, that place, not yet completely 
fortified, and, as we hear, with no very strong garrison, can 
probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I appre- 
hend of obstruction to your march is from ambuscades of Indians, 
who, by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing 
them ; and the slender line, near four miles long, which your army 
must make, may expose it to be attacked by surprise in its flanks, 
and to be cut like a thread into several pieces, which, from their 
distance, cannot come up in time to support each other." 

He smiled at my ignorance, and replied : '' These savages may, 
indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but 
upon the king's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible 
they should make any impression." I was conscious of an im- 
propriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his 
profession, and said no more. The enemy, however, did not take 
the advantage of his army which I apprehended its long hne of 
march, exposed it to, but let it advance without interruption till 
within nine miles of the place ; and then, when more in a body 
(for it had just passed a river where the front had halted till all 
had come over), and in a more open part of the woods than any 
it had passed, attacked its advance guard by a heavy fire from 
behind trees and bushes, which was the first intelligence the gen- 
eral had of an enemy's being near him. This guard being dis- 
ordered, the general hurried the troops up to their assistance, 
which was done in great confusion, through wagons, baggage, and 
cattle ; and presently the fire came upon their flank. The officers, 
being on horseback, were more easily distinguished, picked out as 
marks, and fell very fast ; and the soldiers were crowded together 
in a huddle, having or hearing no orders, and standing to be shot 



l6o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

at till two thirds of them were killed ; and then, being seized with 
a panic, the whole fled with precipitation. 

The wagoners took each a horse out of his team, and scam- 
pered ; their example was immediately followed by others, so that 
all the wagons, provisions, artillery, and stores were left to the 
enemy. The general, being wounded, was brought off with diffi- 
culty ; his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was killed by his side ; and out 
of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were killed or wounded, and seven 
hundred and fourteen men killed out of eleven hundred. These 
eleven hundred had been picked men from the whole army ; the 
rest had been left behind with Colonel Dunbar, who was to follow 
with the heavier part of the stores, provisions, and baggage. The 
flyers, not being pursued, arrived at Dunbar's camp, and the panic 
they brought with them instantly seized him and all his people ; 
and though he had now above one thousand men, and the enemy 
who had beaten Braddock did not at most exceed four hundred 
Indians and French together, instead of proceeding and endeav- 
oring to recover some of the lost honor, he ordered all the stores, 
ammunition, etc., to be destroyed, that he might have more horses 
to assist his flight toward the settlements and less lumber to re- 
move. He was there met with requests from the governors of 
Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, that he would post his 
troops on the frontiers so as to afford some protection to the in- 
habitants; but he continued his hasty march through all the 
country, not thinking himself safe till he arrived at Philadelphia, 
where the inhabitants could protect him. This whole transaction 
gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the 
prowess of British regulars had not been well founded. 

In their first march, too, from their landing till they got beyond 
the settlements, they had plundered and stripped the inhabitants, 
totally ruining some poor families, besides insulting, abusing, and 
confining the people if they remonstrated. This was enough to 
put us out of conceit of such defenders, if we had really wanted 
any. How different was the conduct of our French friends in 
1 781, who, during a march through the most inhabited part of 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, i6i 

our country from Rhode Island to Virginia, near seven hundred 
miles, occasioned not the smallest complaint for the loss of a pig, 
a chicken, or even an apple. 

Captain Orme, who was one of the general's aids-de-camp, 
and, being grievously wounded, was brought off with him and 
continued with him to his death, which happened in a few days, 
told me that he was totally silent all the first day, and at night 
only said: ''Who would have thought it?" that he was silent 
again the following day, saying only at last : '' We shall better 
know how to deal with them another time," and died in a few 
minutes after. 

The secretary's papers, with all the general's orders, instruc- 
tions, and correspondence, falling into the enemy's hands, they 
selected and translated into French a number of the articles, 
which they printed, to prove the hostile intentions of the British 
court before the declaration of war. Among these I saw some 
letters of the general to the ministry^ speaking highly of the great 
service I had rendered the army, and recommending me to their 
notice. David Hume,i too, who was some years after secretary 
to Lord Hertford when minister in France, and afterward to 
General Conway when secretary of state, told me he had seen, 
among the papers in that office, letters from Braddock highly 
recommending me. But, the expedition having been unfortu- 
nate, my service, it seems, was not thought of much value, for 
those recommendations were never of any use to me. 

As to rewards from himself, I asked only one, which was that 
he would gwQ orders to his officers not to enlist any more of oiu* 
bought servants,^ and that he would discharge such as had been 
aheady enlisted. This he readily granted, and several were ac- 
cordingly returned to their masters on my application. Dunbar, 
when the command devolved on him, was not so generous. He 
being at Philadelphia, on his retreat, or rather flight, I applied 

1 The historian and philosopher. He was born in 1711 and died in 1776. 

2 ** Bought servants," i.e., those whose service had been bought for a 
term of years (see Note 2, p. 69). 

II 



1 62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to him for the discharge of the servants of three poor farmers 
of Lancaster County that he had enhsted, reminding him of the 
late general's orders on that head. He promised me that, if the 
masters would come to him at Trenton, where he should be in a 
few days on his march to New York, he would there deliver 
their men to them. They accordingly were at the expense and 
trouble of going to Trenton, and there he refused to perform his 
promise, to their great loss and disappointment. 

As soon as the loss of the wagons and horses was generally 
known, all the owners came upon me for the valuation which I 
had given bond to pay. Their demands gave me a great deal of 
trouble. My acquainting them that the money was ready in the 
paymaster's hands, but that orders for paying it must first be ob- 
tained from General Shirley, and my assuring them that I had 
applied to that general by letter, but, he being at a distance, an an- 
swer could not soon be received, and they must have patience, — 
all this was not sufficient to satisfy, and some began to sue me. 
General Shirley at length relieved me from this terrible situation 
by appointing commissioners to examine the claims, and order- 
ing payment. They amounted to near twenty thousand pounds, 
which to pay would have ruined me. 

Before we had the news of this defeat, the two Doctors Bond 
came to me with a subscription paper for raising money to defray 
the expense of a grand firework, which it was intended to 
exhibit at a rejoicing on receipt of the news of our taking Fort 
Duquesne. I looked grave, and said it would, I thought, be 
time enough to prepare for the rejoicing when we knew we 
should have occasion to rejoice. They seemed surprised that I 
did not immediately comply with their proposal. *' Why," says 
one of them, '' you surely don't suppose that the fort will not be 
taken? " ''I don't know that it will not be taken, but I know 
that the events of war are subject to great uncertainty." I gave 
them the reasons of my doubting ; the subscription was dropped, 
and the projectors thereby missed the mortification they would 
have undergone if the firework had been prepared. Dr. Bond, 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1 63 

on some other occasion afterward, said that he did not hke 
FrankHn's forebodings. 

Governor Morris, who had continually worried the Assembly 
with message after message, before the defeat of Braddock, to 
beat them into the making of acts to raise money for the defense 
of the province without taxing, among others, the proprietary 
estates, and had rejected all their bills for not having such an 
exempting clause, now redoubled his attacks with more hope of 
success, the danger and necessity being greater. The Assembly, 
however, continued firm, beheving they had justice on their side, 
and that it would be giving up an essential right if they suffered 
the governor to amend their money bills. In one of the last, 
indeed, which was for granting fifty thousand pounds, his pro- 
posed amendment was only of a single word. The bill expressed 
that all estates, real and personal, were to be taxed, those of the 
proprietaries not excepted. His amendment was, '^ for not read 
only^'' — a small, but very material, alteration. 

However, when the news of this disaster reached England, our 
friends there, whom we had taken care to furnish with all the 
Assembly's answers to the governor's messages, raised a clamor 
against the proprietaries for their meanness and injustice in giving 
their governor such instructions ; some going so far as to say that, 
by obstructing the defense of their province, they forfeited their 
right to it. They were intimidated by this, and sent orders to their 
receiver-general to add five thousand pounds of their money to 
whatever sum might be given by the Assembly for such purpose. 

This, being notified to the House, was accepted in Heu of their 
share of a general tax, and a new bill was formed, with an ex- 
empting clause, which passed accordingly. By this act I was 
appointed one of the commissioners for disposing of the money, 
— sixty thousand pounds. I had been active in modeling the bill 
and procuring its passage, and had, at the same time, drawn a 
bill for establishing and disciplining a voluntary militia, which I 
carried through the House without much difficulty, as care was 
taken in it to leave the Quakers at their liberty. To promote 



164 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the association necessary to form the mihtia, I wrote a dialogue,^ 
stating and answering all the objections I could think of to such 
a militia, which was printed, and had, as I thought, great effect. 

While the several companies in the city and country were 
forming, and learning their exercise, the governor prevailed with 
me to take charge of our northwestern frontier, which was in- 
fested by the enemy, and provide for the defense of the inhabit- 
ants by raising troops and building a line of forts. I undertook 
this military business, though I did not conceive myself well 
qualified for it. He gave me a commission with full powers, 
and a parcel of blank commissions for officers, to be given to 
vvhom I thought fit. I had but little difficulty in raising men, 
having soon five hundred and sixty under my command. My 
son, who had in the preceding war been an officer in the army 
raised against Canada, was my aid-de-camp, and of great use to 
me. The Indians had burned Gnadenhut, a village settled by 
the T^Ioravians, and massacred the inhabitants ; but the place was 
thought a good situation for one of the forts. 

In order to march thither, I assembled the companies at Beth- 
lehem,- the chief establishment of those people. I was surprised 
to find it in so good a posture of defense ; the destruction of 
Gnadenhut had made them apprehend danger. The principal 
buildings were defended by a stockade, they had purchased a 
quantity of arms and ammunition from New York, and had even 
placed quantities of small paving stones between the windows of 
their high stone houses, for their women to throw down upon the 
heads of any Indians that should attempt to force into them. 
The armed brethren, too, kept watch, and relieved^ as method- 
ically as in any garrison town. In conversation with the bishop, 
Spangenberg, I mentioned this my surprise; for, knowing they 
had obtained an act of Parliament exempting them from miilitary 

1 This dialogue and the militia act are in the Gentleman's Magazine for 
February and March, 1 756. 

2 Fifty-five miles north of Philadelphia. 

3 Relieved one another in military duty. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 165 

duties in the colonies, I had supposed they were conscientiously 
scrupulous of bearing arms. He answered me that it was not 
one of their established principles, but that, at the time of their 
obtaining that act, it was thought to be a principle with many of 
their people. On this occasion, however, they, to their surprise, 
found it adopted by but a few. It seems they were either de- 
ceived in themselves or deceived the Parliament; but common 
sense, aided by present danger, will sometimes be too strong for 
whimsical opinions. 

It was the beginning of January when we set out upon this 
business of building forts. I sent one detachment toward the 
Minisink,^ with instructions to erect one for the security of that 
upper part of the country, and another to the lower part, with 
similar instructions ; and I concluded to go myself with the rest 
of my force to Gnadenhut, where a fort was thought more im- 
mediately necessary. The Moravians procured me five wagons 
for our tools, stores, baggage, etc. 

Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers, who had been 
driven from their plantations by the Indians, came to me request- 
ing a supply of firearms, that they might go back and fetch off 
their cattle. I gave them each a gun with suitable ammunition. 
We had not marched many miles before it began to rain, and it 
continued raining all day. There were no habitations on the road 
to shelter us till we arrived, near night, at the house of a German, 
where, and in his barn, we were all huddled together, as wet as 
water could make us. It was well we were not attacked in our 
march, for our arms were of the most ordinary sort, and our men 
could not keep their gunlocks dry. The Indians are dexterous 
in contrivances for that purpose, which we had not. They met 
that day the eleven poor farmers above mentioned, and killed ten 
of them. The one who escaped informed us that his and his com- 
panions' guns would not go off, the priming ^ being wet with the rain. 

1 The exact location is not known. 

2 The powder used to fire the charge. It was ignited by a spark from the 
flintlock. 



1 66 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The next day being fair, we continued our march, and arrived 
at the desolated Gnadenhut. There was a sawmill near, round 
which were left several piles of boards, with which we soon hutted 
ourselves, — an operation the more necessary at that inclement 
season as we had no tents. Our first work was to bury more 
effectually the dead we found there, who had been half interred 
by the country people. 

The next morning our fort was planned and marked out, the 
circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which 
would require as many palisades to be made of trees, one with 
another, of a foot diameter each. Our axes, of which we had 
seventy, were immediately set to work to cut down trees, and, 
our men being dexterous in the use of them, great dispatch w^as 
made. Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look 
at my watch when two men began to cut at a pine; in six 
minutes they had it upon the ground, and I found it of fourteen 
inches' diameter. Each pine made three palisades of eighteen 
feet long, pointed at one end. While these were preparing, our 
other men dug a trench all round, of three feet deep, in which 
the pahsades were to be planted; and our wagons, the bodies 
being taken off, and the fore and hind wheels separated by taking 
out the pin which united the two parts of the perch,i we had ten 
carriages, with two horses each, to bring the palisades from the 
woods to the spot. When they were set up, our carpenters built 
a stage of boards all round within, about six feet high, for the 
men to stand on when to fire through the loopholes. We had 
one swivel gun,2 which we mounted on one of the angles, and 
fired it as soon' as fixed, to" let the Indians know, if any were 
within hearing, that we had such pieces ; and thus our fort, if 
such a magnificent name may be given to so miserable a stock- 
ade, was finished in a week, though it rained so hard every other 
day that the men could not work. 

This gave me occasion to observe that, when men are em- 

1 Pole. 

2 ** Swivel gun," i.e., a gun turning upon a swivel or pivot in any direction. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 167 

ployed, they are best contented ; for on the days they worked 
they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the conscious- 
ness of having done a good day's work, they spent the evening 
jolhly ; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrel- 
some, finding fault with their pork, the bread, etc., and in con- 
tinual ill humor, which put me in mind of a sea captain, whose 
rule it was to keep his men constantly at work ; and, when his 
mate once told him that they had done everything, and there 
was nothing further to employ them about, ''Oh," says he, '' make 
them scour the anchor/' 

This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient defense 
against Indians, who have no cannon. Finding ourselves now 
posted securely, and having a place to retreat to on occasion, we 
ventured out in parties to scour the adjacent country. We met 
with no Indians, but we found the places on the neighboring 
hills where they had lain to watch our proceedings. There was 
an art in their contrivance of those places that seems worth men- 
tion. It being winter, a fire was necessary for them ; but a com- 
mon fire on the surface of the ground would, by its light, have 
discovered their position at a distance. They had therefore dug 
holes in the ground about three feet in diameter, and somewhat 
deeper. We saw where they had with their hatchets cut off the 
charcoal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. AVith 
these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of the holes, 
and we obser\'^ed among the weeds and grass the prints of their 
bodies, made by their lying all round, with their legs hanging 
down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, v/ith them, is 
an essential point. This kind of fire, so managed, could not 
discover them, either by its light, flame, sparks, or even smoke. 
It appeared that their number was not great, and it seems they 
saw we were too many to be attacked by them with prospect of 
advantage. 

We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. 
Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not generally 
attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they 



1 68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

were promised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, 
which was punctually served out to them, half in the morning, 
and the other half in the evening, and I observed they were as 
punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. 
Beatty : " It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to 
act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out, and 
only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.'* 
He liked the thought, undertook the office, and, with the help of 
a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, 
and never were prayers more generally and more punctually 
attended; so that I thought this method preferable to the pun- 
ishment inflicted by some military laws for nonattendance on 
divine service. 

I had hardly finished this business, and got my fort well stored 
with provisions, when I received a letter from the governor, 
acquainting me that he had called the Assembly, and wished my 
attendance there if the posture of affairs on the frontiers was 
such that my remaining there was no longer necessary. My 
friends, too, of the Assembly, pressing me by their letters to be, 
if possible, at the meeting, and my three intended forts being now 
completed, and the inhabitants contented to remain on their 
farms under that protection, I resolved to return ; the more will- 
ingly, as a New England officer. Colonel Clapham, experienced 
in Indian war, being on a visit to our establishment, consented 
to accept the command. I gave him a commission, and, parad- 
ing the garrison, had it read before them, and introduced him 
to them as an officer who, from his skill in military affairs, was 
much more fit to command them than myself ; and, giving them 
a little exhortation, took my leave. I was escorted as far as 
Bethlehem, where I rested a few days to recover from the fatigue 
I had undergone. The first night, being in a good bed, I could 
hardly sleep, it was so ^different from my hard lodging on the 
floor of our hut at Gnaden, wrapped only in a blanket or two. 

While at Bethlehem, I inquired a little into the practice of the 
Moravians ; some of them had accompanied me, and all were 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 169 

very kind to me. I found they worked for a common stock,i 
ate at common tables, and slept in common dormitories, great 
numbers together. In the dormitories I observed loopholes, at 
certain distances all along just under the ceiling, which I thought 
judiciously placed for change of air. I was at their church, 
where I was entertained with good music, the organ being accom- 
panied with violins, hautboys, flutes, clarinets, etc. I understood 
that their sermons were not usually preached to mixed congrega- 
tions of men, women, and children, as is our common practice, 
but that they assembled sometimes the married men, at other 
times their wives, then the young men, the young women, and 
the little children, each division by itself. The sermon I heard 
was to the latter, who came in and were placed in rows on 
benches; the boys under the conduct of a young man, their 
tutor, and the girls conducted by a young woman. The dis- 
course seemed well adapted to their capacities, and was delivered 
in a pleasing, familiar manner, coaxing them, as it were, to be 
good. They behaved very orderly, but looked pale and un- 
healthy, which made me suspect they were kept too much within 
doors, or net allowed suiflcient exercise. 

I inquired concerning the Moravian marriages, whether the 
report was true that they were by lot. I was told that lots were 
used only in particular cases ; that generally, when a young man 
found himself disposed to marry, he informed the elders of his 
class, who consulted the elder ladies that governed the young 
women. As these elders of the different sexes were well ac- 
quainted with the tempers and dispositions of their respective 
pupils, they could best judge what matches were suitable, and 
their judgments were generally acquiesced in ; but if, for exam- 
ple, it should happen that two or three young women were found 
to be equally proper for the young man, the lot was then recurred 
to. I objected, if the matches are not made by the mutual 
choice of the parties, some of them may chance to be very un- 
happy. '* And so they may," answered my informer, '' if you let 

^ Fund. 



I 70 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the parties choose for themselves ; " which, indeed, I could not 
deny. 

Being returned to Philadelphia, I found the association went 
on swimmingly, the inhabitants that were not Quakers having 
pretty generally come into it, formed themselves into companies, 
and chosen their captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, according to 
the new law. Dr. B. visited me, and gave me an account of the 
pains he had taken to spread a general good liking to the law, 
and ascribed much to those endeavors. I had had the vanity to 
ascribe all to my '* Dialogue ;" however, not knowing but that he 
might be in the right, I let him enjoy his opinion, which I take 
to be generally the best way in such cases. The officers, meet- 
ing, chose me to be colonel of the regiment, wl-^ch I this time 
accepted. I forget how many companies we had, but we paraded 
about twelve hundred well-looking men, with a company of artil- 
lery, who had been furnished with six brass fieldpieces,i which 
they had become so expert in the use of as to fire twelve times 
in a minute. The first time I reviewed my regiment they accom- 
panied me to my house, and would salute me with some rounds 
fired before my door, which shook down and broke several glasses 
of my electrical apparatus. And my new honor proved not 
much less brittle ; for all our commissions were soon after broken 
by a repeal of the law in England. 

During this short time of my colonelship, being about to set 
out on a journey to Virginia, the officers of my regiment took it 
into their heads that it would be proper for them to escort me 
out of town, as far as the Lower Ferry. Just as I was getting 
on horseback they came to my door, between thirty and forty, 
mounted, and all in their uniforms. I had not been previously 
acquainted with the project, or I should have prevented it, being 
naturally averse to the assuming of state on any occasion ; and 
I was a good deal chagrined at their appearance, as I could not 
avoid their accompanying me. What made it worse was that 
as soon as we began to move, they drew their swords and rode 
1 Light cannon mounted on carriages. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1 7 1 

with them naked all the way. Somebody wrote an account of 
this to the proprietor, and it gave him great offense. No such 
honor had been paid him when in the province, nor to any of his 
governors, and he said it was only proper to princes of the blood 
royal ; which may be true for aught I know, who was, and still 
am, ignorant of the etiquette in such cases. 

This silly affair, however, greatly increased his rancor against 
me, which was before not a little on account of my conduct in 
•the Assembly respecting the exemption of his estate from taxa- 
tion, which I had always opposed very warmly, and not without 
severe reflections on his meanness and injustice of contending for 
it. He accused me to the ministry as being the great obstacle 
to the king's service, preventing, by my influence in the House, 
the proper form of the bills for raising money ; and he instanced 
this parade with my officers as a proof of my having an intention 
to take the government of the province out of his hands by force. 
He also applied to Sir Everard Fawkener, the postmaster-general, 
to deprive me of my office ; but it had no other effect than to 
procure from Sir Everard a gentle admonition. 

Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between the governor 
and the House, in which I, as a member, had so large a share, 
there still subsisted a civil intercourse between that gentleman 
and myself, and we never had any personal difference. I have 
sometimes since thought that his little or no resentment against 
me for the answers it was known I drew up to his messages, 
might be the eft'ect of professional habit, and that, being bred a 
lawyer, he might consider us both as merely advocates for con- 
tending clients in a suit, he for the proprietaries and I for the 
Assembly. He w^ould, therefore, sometimes call in a friendly 
way to advise with me on difficult points, and sometimes, though 
not often, take my advice. 

We acted in concert to supply Braddock's army with provi- 
sions; and when the shocking news arrived of his defeat, the 
governor sent in haste for me to consult with him on measures 
for preventing the desertion of the back counties. I forget now 



172 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the advice I gave ; but I think it was that Dunbar should be 
written to, and prevailed with, if possible, to post his troops on 
the frontiers for their protection, till, by reenforcements from the 
colonies, he might be able to proceed on the expedition. And, 
after my return from the frontier, he would have had me under- 
take the conduct of such an expedition with provincial troops, 
for the reduction of Fort Duquesne, Dunbar and his men being 
otherwise employed; and he proposed to commission me as 
general. I had not so good an opinion of my military abilities 
as he professed to have, and I believe his professions must have 
exceeded his real sentiments ; but probably he might think that 
my popularity would facilitate the raising of the men, and my 
influence in Assembly, the grant of money to pay them, and that, 
perhaps, without taxing the proprietary estate. Finding me not 
so forward to engage as he expected, the project was dropped, 
and he soon after left the government, being superseded by Cap- 
tain Denny. 

Before I proceed in relating the part I had in public affairs 
under this new governor's administration, it may not be amiss 
here to give some account of the rise and progress of my philo- 
sophical reputation. 



§ 9. THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENTS. 

IN 1 746, being at Boston, I met there with a Dr. Spence, who 
was lately arrived from Scotland, and showed me some elec- 
tric experiments. They were imperfectly performed, as he was 
not very expert; but, being on a subject quite new to me, they 
equally surprised and pleased me. Soon after m^y return to Phil- 
adelphia, our library company received from Mr. Collinson, 
Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a present of a glass tube, 
with some account of the use of it in making such experiments. 



BEXJAMIN FRANKLIN, 173 

I eagerly seized the opportunity of repeating what I had seen at 
Boston ; and, by much practice, acquired great readiness in per- 
forming those, also, which we had an account of from England, 
adding a number of new ones. .1 say much practice, for my 
house was continually full, for some time, with people who came 
to see these new wonders. 

To divide a httle this incumbrance among my friends, I caused 
a number of similar tubes to be blown at our glasshouse, with 
which they furnished themselves, so that we had at length several 
performers. Among these, the principal was Mr. Kinnersley, an 
ingenious neighbor, who, being out of business, I encouraged to 
undertake showing the experiments for money, and drew up for 
him two lectures, in which the experiments were ranged in such 
order, and accompanied with such explanations in such method, 
as that the foregoing should assist in comprehending the follow- 
ing. He procured an elegant apparatus for the purpose, in which 
all the little machines that I had roughly made for myself were 
nicely formed by instrument makers. His lectures were well 
attended, and gave great satisfaction ; and after some time he 
went through the colonies, exhibiting them in every capital town, 
and picked up some money. In the West India islands, indeed, 
it was with difficulty the experiments could be made, from the 
general moisture of the air. 

Obliged as we were to Mr. Collinson for his present of the 
tube, etc., I thought it right he should be informed of our suc- 
cess in using it, and wrote him several letters containing accounts 
of our experiments. He got them read in the Royal Society, 
where they were not at first thought worth so much notice as to 
be printed in their ''Transactions." One paper, which I wrote 
for Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with electricity, 
I sent to Dr. Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine, and one of the 
members also of that society, who wrote me word that it had 
been read, but was laughed at by the connoisseurs. The papers, 
however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought them of too 
much value to be stifled, and advised the printing of them. Mr. 



174 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Collinson then gave them to Cave ^ for pubhcation in his " Gen- 
tleman's Magazine;" but he chose to print them separately in a 
pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. Cave, it seems, 
judged rightly for his profit, for, by the additions that arrived 
afterward, they swelled to a quarto volume, which has had five 
editions, and cost him nothing for copy money.- 

It was, however, some time before those papers were much 
taken notice of in England. A copy of them happening to fall 
into the hands of the Count de Buft'on, a philosopher deser\'edly 
of great reputation in France, and, indeed, all over Europe, he 
prevailed with VL? Dalibard to translate them into French, and 
they were printed at Paris. The publication offended the Abbe ^ 
Nollet, preceptor in natural philosophy to the royal family and 
an able experimenter, who had formed and published a theory 
of electricity which then had the general vogue. He could not 
at first believe that such a work came from America, and said it 
must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry his 
system. Afterward, having been assured that there really existed 
such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted, 
he wrote and published a volume of '^ Letters," chiefly addi*essed 
to me, defending his theory, and denying the verity of my experi- 
ments, and of the positions deduced from them. 

I once purposed answering the abbe, and actually began the 
answer ; but, on consideration that my wTitings contained a de- 
scription of experiments which any one might repeat and verify, 
and if not to be verified, could not be defended ; or of observa- 
tions offered as conjectures, and not delivered dogmatically, 
therefore not laving me under anv obli2:ation to defend them ; 



1 The publisher, Edward Cave (1691-1754), was the founder of the Gen- 
tleman's Magazine, the earliest literary journal of the kind. 

2 '' Copy money," i.e., money paid for the copy or article. 

3 Monsieur. 

4 A title formerly assumed in France by a class of men who had slight con- 
nections with the church, and were employed as teachers or engaged in some 
literary pursuit. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. I 75 

and reflecting that a dispute between two persons writing in dif- 
ferent languages might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations, 
and thence misconceptions of one another's meaning, much of 
one of the abbe's letters being founded on an error in the transla- 
tion, I concluded to let my papers shift for themselves, believing 
it was better to spend what time I could spare from public busi- 
ness in making new experiments, than in disputing about those 
already made. 1 therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the 
event gave me no cause to repent my silence ; for my friend 
M. le Roy, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, took up my cause 
and refuted him, my book was translated into the Italian, Ger- 
man, and Latin languages, and the doctrine it contained was by 
degrees universally adopted by the philosophers of Europe, in 
preference to that of the abbe ; so that he lived to see himself 

the last of his sect, except Monsieur B , of Paris, his eleve^ 

and immediate disciple. 

What gave my book the more sudden and general celebrity 
was the success of one of its proposed experiments, made by 
Messrs. Dalibard and De Lor at Marly, for drawing lightning 
from the clouds. This engaged the public attention everywhere. 
M. de Lor, who had an apparatus for experimental philosophy, 
and lectured in that branch of science, undertook to repeat what 
he called the '' Philadelphia experiments," and, after they were per- 
formed before the king and court, all the curious of Paris flocked 
to see them. I will not swell this narrative with an account of 
that capital experiment, nor of the infinite pleasure I received in 
the success of a similar one I made soon after with a kite at Phil- 
adelphia, as both are to be found in the histories of electricity. 

Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, wrote to a 
friend who was of the Royal Society, an account of the high 
esteem my experiments'" were in among the learned abroad, and 
of their wonder that my writings had been so little noticed in 
England. The society, on this, resumed the consideration of the 
letters that had been read to them ; and the celebrated Dr. Wat- 

1 Pupil. 



176 777^ AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

son drew up a summary account of them, and of all I had after- 
ward sent to England on the subject, which he accompanied 
with some praise of the writer. This summary was then printed 
in their '^Transactions;" and some members of the society in 
London^ particularly the very ingenious Mr. Canton, having veri- 
fied the experiment of procuring lightning from the clouds by a 
pointed rod,^ and acquainting them with the success, they soon 
made me more than amends for the slight with which they had 
before treated me. "Without my having made any application 
for that honor, they chos.e me a member, and voted that I should 
be excused the customary payments, which would have amounted 
to twenty-five guineas, and ever since have given me their '* Trans- 
actions" gratis. They also presented me with the gold medal 
of Sir Godfrey Copley for the year 1753, the delivery of which 
was accompanied by a very handsome speech of the president, 
Lord Macclesfield, wherein I was highly honored. 

Our new governor. Captain Denny, brought over for me the 
before-mentioned medal from the Royal Society, which he pre- 
sented to me at an entertainment given him by the city. He 
accompanied it with very polite expressions of his esteem for 
me, having, as he said, been long acquainted with my character. 
After dinner, when the company, as was customary at that time, 
were engaged in drinking, he took me aside into another room, 
and acquainted me that he had been advised by his friends in 
England to cultivate a friendship with me, as one who was capa- 
ble of giving him the best advice, and of contributing most effec- 
tually to the making his administration easy ; that he therefore de- 
sired of all things to have a good understanding with me, and he 
begged me to be assured of his readiness on all occasions to render 
me every service that might be in his power. He said much to 
me, also, of the proprietor's good disposition toward the province, 

1 The iron rod was on the kite which Franklin flew in a thunderstorm in 
1752. A hemp cord conducted the electricity to a key near his hand, and from 
this he received the shock which proved the truth of his theory that lightning; 
and electricity are one and the same. 



BENJAMIX FRAXKLIX. 



■ / / 



and of the advantage it might be to us all, and to me in particu- 
lar, if the opposition that had been so long continued to his meas- 
ures was dropped, and harmony restored between him and the 
people ; in effecting which it was thought no one could be more 
serviceable than myself, and I might depend on adequate ac- 
knowledgments and recompenses, etc. The drinkers, finding 
we did not return immediately to the table, sent us a decanter 
of Madeira, which the governor made liberal use of, and in pro- 
portion became more profuse of his solicitations and promises. 

My answers were to this purpose : that my circumstances, 
thanks to God, were such as to make proprietary favors unneces- 
sary to me ; and that, being a member of the Assembly, I could 
not possibly accept of any ; that, however, I had no personal en- 
mity to the proprietary, and that, whenever the public measures 
he proposed should appear to be for the good of the people, no 
one should espouse and forward them more zealously than my- 
self, my past opposition having been founded on this, that the 
measures which had been urged were evidently intended to serve 
the proprietary interest, with great prejudice to that of the peo- 
ple ; that I was much obliged to him (the governor) for his pro- 
fessions of regard to me, and that he might rely on everything in 
my power to make his administration as easy as possible, hoping 
at the same time that he had not brought with him the same un- 
fortunate instructions his predecessor had been hampered with. 

On this he did not then explain himself; but when he after- 
ward came to do business with the Assembly, they appeared 
again, the disputes were renewed, and I was as active as ever in 
the opposition, being the penman, first, of the request to have a 
communication of the instructions, and then of the remarks upon 
them, which may be found in the votes of the time, and in the 
'' Historical Review " I afterward pubhshed. But between us 
personally no enmity arose ; we were often together. He was a 
man of letters, had seen much of the world, and was very enter- 
taining and pleasing in conversation. He gave me the first in- 
formation that my old friend James Ralph was still alive ; that 

12 



178 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

he was esteemed one of the best pohtlcal writers in England ; had 
been employed in the dispute between Prince Frederic and the 
king, and had obtained a pension of three hundred a year ; that 
his reputation was indeed small as a poet, Pope having damned 
his poetry in the '^ Dunciad,^' but his prose was thought as good 
as any man's. 

The Assembly, finally finding the proprietary obstinately per- 
sisted in manacling their deputies ^ with instructions inconsistent 
not only with the privileges of the people but with the service of 
the Crown, resolved to petition the king against them, and ap- 
pointed me their agent to go over to England to present and sup- 
port the petition. The House had sent up a bill to the governor, 
granting a sum of sixty thousand pounds for the king's use, (ten 
thousand pounds of which was subjected to the orders of the 
then general. Lord Loudoun,) which the governor absolutely re- 
fused to pass, in compliance with his instructions. 



§ 10. MISSION TO ENGLAND. 

I HAD agreed with Captain Morris, of the packet ^ at New 
York, for my passage, and my stores were put on board, when 
Lord Loudoun arrived at Philadelphia, expressly, as he told me, 
to endeavor an accommodation between the governor and Assem- 
bly, that his Majesty's service might not be obstructed by their 
dissensions. Accordingly, he desired the governor and myself to 
meet him, that he might hear what was to be said on both sides. 
We met and discussed the business. In behalf of the Assembly, 
I urged all the various arguments that may be found in the pub- 
lic papers of that time, which were of my writing, and are printed 
with the minutes of the Assembly ; and the governor pleaded his 

1 See Note 2, p. 151. 

2 A vessel starting at some set time and conveying letters and passengers 
from country to country. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN i 7 9 

instructions, the bond he had given to observe them, and his ruin 
if he disobeyed, yet seemed not unwilhng to hazard himself if 
Lord Loudoun would advise it. This his lordship did not choose 
to do, though I once thought I had nearly prevailed with him to 
do it ; but finally he rather chose to urge the compliance of the 
Assembly, and he entreated me to use my endeavors with them 
for that purpose, declaring that he would spare none of the king's 
troops for the defense of our frontiers, and that, if we did not 
continue to provide for that defense ourselves, they must remain 
exposed to the enemy. 

I acquainted the House with what had passed, and, present- 
ing them with a set of resolutions I had drawn up, declaring our 
rights, and that we did not relinquish our claims to those rights, 
but only suspended the exercise of them on this occasion through 
force, against which we protested, they at length agreed to drop 
that bill, and frame another, conformable to the proprietary in- 
structions. This of course the governor passed, and I was then 
at liberty to proceed on my voyage. But, in the mean time, the 
packet had sailed with my sea stores, which was some loss to me, 
and my only recompense was his lordship's thanks for my serv- 
ice, all the credit of obtaining the accommodation falling to his 
share. 

He set out for New York before me ; and, as the time for dis- 
patching the packet boats was at his disposition, and there were 
two then remaining there, one of which, he said, was to sail very- 
soon, I requested to know the precise time, that I might not miss 
her by any delay of mine. His answer was : '' I have given out 
that she is to sail on Saturday next ; but I may let you know, 
€7itre notis} that if you are there by Monday morning, you will 
be \n time, but do not delay longer." By some accidental hin- 
drance at a ferry, it was Monday noon before I arrived, and 
I was much afraid she might have sailed, as the wind was fair ; 
but I was soon made easy by the information that she was still in 
the harbor, and would not move till the next day. 
1 Between ourselves. 



i8o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

One would imagine that I was now on the very point of 
departing for Europe. I thought so ; but I was not then so 
well acquainted with his lordship's character, of which indecision 
was one of the strongest features. I shall give some instances. 
It was about the beginning of April that I came to New York, 
and I think it was near the end of June before we sailed. There 
were then two of the packet boats, which had been long in port, 
but were detained for the general's letters, which were always 
to be ready to-morrow. Another packet arrived ; she too was 
detained; and, before we sailed, a fourth was expected. Ours 
was the first to be dispatched, as having been there longest. 
Passengers were engaged in all, and some extremely impatient 
to be gone, and the merchants uneasy about their letters and 
the orders they had given for insurance (it being war time) for 
fall goods ; but their anxiety availed nothing ; his lordship's letters 
were not ready ; and yet whoever waited on him found him 
always at his desk, pen in hand, and concluded he must needs 
write abundantly. 

Going myself one morning to pay my respects, I found in his 
antechamber one Innis, a messenger of Philadelphia, who had 
come from thence express with a packet from Governor Denny 
for the general. He delivered to me some letters from my friends 
there, which occasioned my inquiry when he was to return, and 
where he lodged, that I might send some letters by him. He 
told me he was ordered to call to-morrow at nine for the general's 
answer to the governor, and should set off immediately. I put 
my letters into his hands the same day. A fortnight after I met 
him again in the same place. '' So, you are soon returned, In- 
nis? " '' Returned! no, I am not gone yet." '' How so? " " I 
have called here by order every morning these two weeks past for 
his lordship's letter, and it is not yet ready." '' Is it possible, 
when he is so great a writer ? for I see him constantly at his 
escritoire." ''Yes," says Innis, "but he is like St. George on 
the signs, always on horseback, and never rides on." This obser- 
vation of the messenger was, it seems, well founded ; for, when 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN i8i 

in England, I understood that Mr. Pitt^ gave it as one reason 
for removing this general, and sending Generals Amherst and 
Wolfe, that the minister never heard from him, and could not know 
what he was doing. 

This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three packets go- 
ing down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet there, the passengers 
thought it best to be on board, lest by a sudden order the ships 
should sail and they be left behind. There, if I remember right, 
we were about six weeks, consuming our sea stores, and obliged 
to procure more. At length the fleet sailed, the general and all 
his army on board, bound to Louisburg,- with intent to besiege 
and take that fortress ; all the packet boats in company ordered 
to attend the general's ship, ready to receive his dispatches when 
they should be ready. We were out five days before we got a 
letter with leave to part, and then our ship quitted the fleet and 
steered for England. The other two packets he still detained, 
carried them with him to Halifax, where he stayed some time to 
exercise the men in sham attacks upon sham forts, then altered 
his mind as to besieging Louisburg, and returned to New York 
with all his troops, together with the two packets above men- 
tioned, and all their passengers! During his absence the French 
and savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier of that prov- 
ince, and the savages had massacred many of the garrison after 
capitulation. 

I saw afterward in London Captain Bonnell, who commanded 
one of those packets. He told me that, w^hen he had been de- 
tained a month, he acquainted his lordship that his ship was 
grown foul to a degree that must necessarily hinder her fast 
sailing, a point of consequence for a packet boat, and requested 
an allowance of time to heave her down and clean her bottom. 
He was asked how long time that would require. He answered, 

1 William Pitt (1708-78). See Macaulay's Essay on the Earl of Chatham 
(Eclectic English Classics, American Book Company). 

2 A possession of the French in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It was taken 
by the English in 1758. 



1 82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

" Three days." The general repHed : '' If you can do it in one 
day, I give leave ; otherwise not ; for you must certainly sail the 
day after to-morrow." So he never obtained leave, though de- 
tained afterward from day to day during full three months. 

I saw also in London one of Bonnell's passengers, who was so 
enraged against his lordship for deceiving and detaining him so 
long at New York, and then carrying him to Halifax and back 
again, that he swore he would sue him for damages. Whether 
he did or not, I never heard ; but, as he represented the injury to 
his affairs, it was very considerable. 

On the whole, I wondered much how such a man came to be 
intrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great 
army ; but, having since seen more of the great world, and the 
means of obtaining and motives for giving places, my wonder is 
diminished. General Shirley, on whom the command of the army 
devolved upon the death of Braddock, would, in my opinion, if 
continued in place, have made a much better campaign than that 
of Loudoun in 1757, which was frivolous, expensive, and dis- 
graceful to our nation beyond conception ; for, though Shirley 
was not a bred soldier, he was sensible and sagacious in himself, 
and attentive to good advice from others, capable of forming 
judicious plans, and quick and active in carrying them into exe- 
cution. Loudoun, instead of defending the colonies with his 
great army, left them totally exposed, while he paraded idly at 
Halifax, by which means Fort George was lost. Besides, he de- 
ranged all our mercantile operations, and distressed our trade, by 
a long embargo ^ on the exportation of provisions, on pretense of 
keeping supplies from being obtained by the enemy, but in reality 
for beating down their price in favor of the contractors, in whose 
profits, it was said, perhaps from suspicion only, he had a share. 
And when at length the embargo was taken off by neglecting to 
send notice of it to Charleston, the Carolina fleet was detained 
near three months longer, whereby their bottoms were so much 

1 A prohibition to prevent ships leaving port. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 183 

damaged by the worm 1 that a great part of them foundered in 
their passage home, 

Shirley was, I beheve, sincerely glad of being relieved from so 
burdensome a charge as the conduct of an army must be to a 
man unacquainted with military business. I was at the entertain- 
ment given by the city of New York to Lord Loudoun, on his 
taking upon him the command. Shirley, though thereby super- 
seded, was present also. There was a great company of officers, 
citizens, and strangers, and, some chairs having been borrowed 
in the neighborhood, there was one among them very low, which 
fell to the lot of Mr. Shirley. Perceiving it as I sat by him, I 
said, " They have given you, sir, too low a seat.'* " No matter," 
says he, "' Mr. Franklin, I find a low seat the easiest." 

While I was, as afore mentioned, detained at New York, I 
received all the accounts of the provisions, etc., that I had fur- 
nished to Braddock, some of which accounts could not sooner 
be obtained from the different persons I had employed to assist 
in the business. I presented them to Lord Loudoun, desiring to 
be paid the balance. He caused them to be regularly examined 
by the proper officer, who, after comparing every article with its 
voucher, certified them to be right, and the balance due, for 
which his lordship promised to give me an order on the paymas- 
ter. This was, however, put off from time to time ; and, though 
I called often for it by appointment, I did not get it. At length, 
just before my departure, he told me he had, on better consider- 
ation, concluded not to mix his accounts with those of his prede- 
cessors. '' And you," says he, " when in England, have only to 
exhibit your accounts at the treasury, and you will be paid im- 
mediately." 

I mentioned, but without effect, the great and unexpected ex- 
pense I had been put to by being detained so long at New York, 
as a reason for my desiring to be presently paid ; and on my ob- 
serving that it was not right I should be put to any further trou- 
ble or delay in obtaining the money I had advanced, as I charged 
1 The worm which eats into the wood bottoms of ships. 



1 84 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

no commission for my service, '' O sir," says he, '' you must not 
think of persuading us that you are no gainer; we understand 
better those affairs, and know that every one concerned in supply- 
ing the army finds means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets." 
I assured him that was not my case, and that I had not pocketed 
a farthing, but he appeared clearly not to believe me ; and, in- 
deed, I have since learned that immense fortunes are often made 
in such employments. As to my balance, I am not paid it to 
this day, of which more hereafter. 

Our captain of the packet had boasted much, before we sailed, 
of the swiftness of his ship ; unfortunately, when we came to sea, 
she proved the dullest of ninety-six sail, to his no small mortifi- 
cation. After many conjectures respecting the cause, when we 
were near another ship almost as dull as ours, which, however, 
gained upon us, the captain ordered all hands to come aft, and 
stand as near the ensign staff ^ as possible. We were, passengers 
included, about forty persons. While we stood there, the ship 
mended her pace, and soon left her neighbor far behind, which 
proved clearly what our captain suspected, that she was loaded 
too much by the head. The casks of water, it seems, had been 
all placed forward ; these he therefore ordered to be moved far- 
ther aft, on which the ship recovered her character, and proved 
the best sailer in the fleet. 

The captain said she had once gone at the rate of thirteen 
knots, which is accounted thirteen miles per hour. We had on 
board, as a passenger. Captain Kennedy, of the navy, who con- 
tended that it was impossible, that no ship ever sailed so fast, 
and that there must have been some error in the division of the 
log line,2 or some mistake in heaving the log. A wager ensued 
between the two captains, to be decided when there should be 
sufficient wind. Kennedy thereupon examined rigorously the 
log line, and, being satisfied with that, he determined to throw 

1 '' Ensign staff," i.e., flagstaff. 

2 The log line is a line fastened to the log-chip, by which, when it is 
thrown over the side of a vessel, the rate of speed is found. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 185 

the log himself. Accordingly, some days after, when the wind 
blew very fair and fresh, and the captain of the packet, Lutwidge, 
said he believed she then went at the rate of thirteen knots, Ken- 
nedy made the experiment, and owned his wager lost. 

The above fact I give for the sake of the following observa- 
tion. It has been remarked, as an imperfection in the art of ship 
building, that it can never be known, till she is tried, whether a 
new ship will or will not be a good sailer ; for that the model of 
a good sailing ship has been exactly followed in a new one, w^hich 
has proved, on the contrary, remarkably dull. I apprehend that 
this may partly be occasioned by the different opinions of seamen 
respecting the modes of lading, rigging, and sailing of a ship. 
Each has his system ; and the same vessel, laden by the judgment 
and orders of one captain, shall sail better or worse than when 
by the orders of another. Besides, it scarce ever happens that a 
ship is formed, fitted for the sea, and sailed by the same person. 
One man builds the hull, another rigs her, a third lades and sails 
her. No one of these has the advantage of knowing all the ideas 
and experience of the others, and therefore cannot draw just con- 
clusions from a combination of the whole. 

Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I have 
often observed different judgments in the officers who com- 
manded the successive watches,^ the wand being the same. One 
would have the sails trimmed sharper or flatter than another, so 
that they seemed to have no certain rule to govern by. Yet I 
think a set of experiments might be instituted,^ first, to determine 
the most proper form of the' hull for swift sailing; next, the best 
dimensions and properest place for the masts ; then the form and 
quantity of sails, and their position, as the wind may be ; and, 
lastly, the disposition of the lading. This is an age of experi-* 
ments, and I think a set accurately made and combined would 
be of great use. I am persuaded, therefore, that ere long some 
ingenious philosopher will undertake it, to whom I wish success. 

1 A watch is a certain part of a vessel's olScers and crew who have the 
care and working of her for a period of time, commonly for four hours. 



i86 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

We were several times chased ^ in our passage, but outsailed 
everything, and in thirty days had soundings.- We had a good 
observation,^ and the captain judged himself so near our port, 
Falmouth, that, if we made a good run in the night, we might be 
off the mouth of that harbor in the morning, and by running in 
the night might escape the notice of the enemy's privateers,^ who 
often cruised near the entrance of the channel. Accordingly, all 
the sail was set that we could possibly make, and the wind being 
very fresh and fair, we went right before it, and made great way. 
The captain, after his observation, shaped his course, as he 
thought, so as to pass wide of the Scilly Isles ; but it seems there 
is sometimes a strong indraught ^ setting up St. George's Chan- 
nel, which deceives seamen and caused the loss of Sir Cloudesley 
Shovel's squadron. This indraught was probably the cause of 
what happened to us. 

We had a watchman placed in the bow, to whom they often 
called, '' Look well out before there," and he as often answered, 
'' Ay, ay ; " but perhaps he had his eyes shut, and was half asleep at 
the time, they sometimes answering, as is said, mechanically ; for 
he did not see a light just before us, which had been hid by the 
studding sails ^ from the man at the helm, and from the rest of 
the watch, but by an accidental yaw of the ship was discovered 
and occasioned a great alarm, we being very near it, the light ap- 
pearing to me as big as a cart wheel. It was midnight, and our 
captain fast asleep ; but Captain Kennedy, jumping upon deck, 
and seeing the danger, ordered the ship to wear round, all sails 
standing — an operation dangerous to the masts ; but it carried us 

1 By French vessels. 

2 Measurements of the depth of the water with a plummet and line. 

• 3 Of the sun's altitude in order to calculate the latitude (see Note 2, p. 

/ II' 

4 Vessels armed and ofhcered by private persons, but acting under a com- 
mission from government. 
^ An inward current. 
6 Studding sails are sails set between the edges of the chief square sails 

durins: 3. fair wind. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 187 

clear, and we escaped shipwreck, for we were running right upon 
the rocks on which the lighthouse was erected. This dehverance 
impressed me strongly with the utility of hghthouses, and made 
me resolve to encourage the building of more of them in Amer- 
ica, if I should live to return there. 

In the morning it was found by the soundings, etc., that we 
w^ere near our port, but a thick fog hid the land from our sight. 
About nine o'clock the fog began to rise, and seemed to be lifted 
up from the water like the curtain at a playhouse, discovering 
underneath the town of Falmouth, the vessels in its harbor, and 
the fields that surrounded it. This was a most pleasing spectacle 
to those who had been so long without any other prospects than 
the uniform view of a vacant ocean, and it gave us the more 
pleasure as we were now free from the anxieties which the state 
of war occasioned. 

I set out immediately, with my son, for London, and we only 
stopped a Httle by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury 
Plain, and Lord Pembroke's house and gardens, with his very 
curious antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in London the 27th of 
July, 1757.1 

As soon as I was settled in a lodging Mr. Charles had provided 
for me, I went to visit Dr. Fothergill, to whom I was strongly 
recommended, and whose counsel respecting my proceedings I 
was advised to obtain. He was against an immediate complaint 
to government, and thought the proprietaries should first be 
personally appHed to, who might possibly be induced by the 
interposition and persuasion of some private friends, to accom- 
modate matters amicably. I then waited on my old friend and 
, correspondent, Mr. Peter Collinson, who told me that John Han- 
1 bury, the great Virginia merchant, had requested to be informed 
when I should arrive, that he might carry me to Lord Granville's, 

1 " Here terminates the Autobiography, as published by William Temple 
I Franklin and his successors. What follows was written the last year of Dr. 
I Franklin's life, and was never before printed in English." — Bigelow's Auto- 
biography of Franklin ^ 1 868, p. 350, note. 



1^5 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

who was then President of the Council, and wished to see me as 
soon as possible. I agreed to go with him the next morning. 
Accordingly, Mr. Hanbury called for me and took me in his car- 
riage to that nobleman's, who received me with great civility ; 
and after some questions respecting the present state of affairs in 
America and discourse thereupon, he said to me : '' You Amer- 
icans have wrong ideas of the nature of your Constitution ; you 
contend that the king's instructions to his governors are not laws, 
and think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at 
your own discretion. But those instructions are not like the 
pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad, for regu- 
lating his conduct in some trifling point of ceremony. They are 
first drawn up by judges learned in the laws ; they are then con- 
sidered, debated, and perhaps amended in Council, after which 
they are signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate 
to you, the law of the land, for the king is the legislator of 
the colonies.'* 

I told his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had 
always understood from our charters that our laws were to be 
made by our Assemblies, to be presented indeed to the king 
for his royal assent, but that being once given, the king could 
not repeal or alter them ; and as the Assemblies could not 
make permanent laws without his assent, so neither could he 
make a law for them without theirs. He assured me I was to- 
tally mistaken. I did not think so, however, and his lordship's 
conversation having a little alarmed me as to what might be the 
sentiments of the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon 
as I returned to my lodgings. I recollected that about twenty 
years before, a clause in a bill brought into Parliament by the 
ministry had proposed to make the king's instructions laws in 
the colonies, but the clause was thrown out by the Commons, 
for which we adored them as our friends and friends of liberty, 
till by their conduct toward us in 1765 it seemed that they had 
refused that point of sovereignty to the king only that they might 
reserve it for themselves. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 189 

After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to the proprie- 
taries, they agreed to a meeting with me at Air. T. Penn's house 
in Spring Garden. The conversation at first consisted of mutual 
declarations of disposition to reasonable accommodations, but I 
suppose each party had its own ideas of what should be meant 
by '' reasonable." We then went into consideration of our several 
points of complaint, which I enumerated. The proprietaries jus- 
tified their conduct as well as they could, and I the Assembly's. 
We now appeared very wdde, and so far from each other in our 
opinions as to discourage all hope of agreement. However, it 
was concluded that I should give them the heads of our com- 
plaints in writing, and they promised then to consider them. I 
did so soon after, but they put the paper into the hands of their 
solicitor, Ferdinand John Paris, who managed for them all their 
law business in their great suit with the neighboring proprietary 
of Maryland, Lord Baltimore, which had subsisted seventy years, 
and who wrote for them all their papers and messages in their 
dispute with the Assembly. He was a proud, angry man, and 
as I had occasionally in the answers of the Assembly treated his 
papers with some severity, they being really weak in point of 
argument and haughty in expression, he had conceived a mortal 
enmity to me, which discovering itself whenever we met, I de- 
clined the proprietaries' proposal that he and I should discuss the 
heads of complaint between our two selves, and refused treating 
with any one but them. They then by his advice put the paper 
into the hands of the attorney and solicitor-general, for their 
opinion and counsel upon it, where it lay unanswered a year 
wanting eight days, during which time I made frequent demands 
of an answer from the proprietaries, but without obtaining any 
other than that they had not yet received the opinion of the at- 
torney and sohcitor-general. What it was when they did receive 
it I never learned, for they did not communicate it to me, but 
sent a long message to the Assembly, drawn and signed by Paris, 
reciting my paper, com.plaining of its want of formahty as a rude- 
ness on my part, and giving a flimsy justification of their conduct, 



190 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

adding that they should be wilhng to accommodate matters if 
the Assembly would send out '' some person of candor " to treat 
with them for that purpose, intimating thereby that I was not such. 

The want of formality, or rudeness, was, probably, my not hav- 
ing addressed the paper to them with their assumed titles of 
''True and Absolute Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsyl- 
vania," which I omitted as not thinking it necessary in a paper 
the intention. of which was only to reduce to a certainty by writ- 
ing what in conversation I had delivered viva voce?- 

But during this delay, the Assembly having prevailed with 
Governor Denny to pass an act taxing the proprietary estate in 
common with the estates of the people, which was the grand 
point in dispute, they omitted answering the message. 

When this act, however, came over, the proprietaries, coun- 
seled by Paris, determined to oppose its receiving the royal as- 
sent. Accordingly they petitioned the king in Council, and a 
hearing was appointed in which two lawyers were employed by 
them against the act, and two by me in support of it. They 
alleged that the act was intended to load the proprietary estate 
in order to spare those of the people, and that if it were suffered 
to continue in force, and the proprietaries, who were in odium 
with the people, left to their mercy in proportioning the taxes, 
they would inevitably be ruined. We replied that the act had 
no such intention, and would have no such effect ; that the asses- 
sors were honest and discreet men under an oath to assess fairly 
and equitably, and that any advantage each of them might ex- 
pect in lessening his own tax by augmenting that of the proprie- 
taries was too trifling to induce them to perjure themselves. 

This is the purport of what I remember as urged by both sides, 
except that we insisted strongly on the mischievous consequences 
that must attend a repeal, for that the money, one hundred thou- 
sand pounds, being printed and given to the king's use, expended 
in his service, and now spread among the people, the repeal would 
strike it dead in their hands to the ruin of many, and the total 
1 ^y word of mouth. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 191 

discouragement of future grants ; and the selfishness of the pro- 
prietors in sohciting such a general catastrophe, merely from a 
groundless fear of their estate being taxed too highly, was insisted 
on in the strongest terms. 

On this, Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel, rose, and beckon- 
ing me, took me into the clerk's chamber, while the lawyers 
were pleading, and asked me if I was really of opinion that 
no injury would be done the proprietary estate in the execution 
of the act. I said, "Certainly." ''Then," says he, ''you can 
have Httle objection to enter into an engagement to assure that 
point." I answered, " None at all." He then called in Paris, 
and after some discourse, his lordship's proposition was accepted 
on both sides ; a paper to the purpose was drawn up by the clerk 
of the Council, which I signed with Mr. Charles, who was also an 
agent of the province for their ordinary affairs, when Lord Mans- 
field returned to the council chamber, where finally the law was 
allowed to pass. Some changes were, however, recommended, 
and we also engaged they should be made by a subsequent law, 
but the Assembly did not think them necessary ; for one year's 
tax having been levied by the act before the order of Council 
arrived, they appointed a committee to examine the proceedings 
of the assessors, and on this committee they put several particu- 
lar friends of the proprietaries. After a full inquiry, they unani- 
mously signed a report that they found the tax had been assessed 
with perfect equity. 

The Assembly looked upon my entering into the first part of the 
engagement as an essential service to the province, since it se- 
cured the credit of the paper money then spread over all the 
country. They gave me their thanks in form when I returned. 
But the proprietaries were enraged at Governor Denny for hav- 
ing passed the act, and turned him out with threats of suing him 
for breach of instructions which he had given bond to observe. 
He, however, having done it at the instance of the general, and 
for his Majesty's service, and having some powerful interest at 
coiurt, despised the threats, and they were never put in execution. 



192 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

letters referred to on page 89. 

From Mr. Abel James (Received in Paris). 

'' My dear and honored Friend : I have often been desirous 
of writing to thee, but could not be reconciled to the thought that 
the letter might fall into the hands of the British, lest some printer or 
busybody should publish some part of the contents, and give our 
friend pain, and myself censure. 

"• Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about 
twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, containing an account of 
the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the 
year 1730; with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing; a 
copy of which I inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued 
it up to a later period, that the first and latter part may be put to- 
gether; and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it. 
Life is uncertain^ as the preacher tells us; and what will the world say 
if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends 
and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work 
which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but to mil- 
lions ? The influence writings under that class have on the minds of 
youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain as 
in our public friend's journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth 
into the resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as 
the journalist. Should thine, for instance, when published (and I 
think it could not fail of it), lead the youth to equal the industry and 
temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would 
such a work be ! I know of no character living, nor many of them 
put together, who has so much in his power as thyself to promote a 
greater spirit of industry and early attention to business, frugality, and 
temperance with the American youth. Not that I think the work 
would have no other merit and use in the world — far from it; but the 
first is of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it." 

The other letter, from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan, gave similar advice. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 193 

THE WAY TO WEALTH, 

AS CLEARLY SHOWN IN THE PREFACE OF AN OLD PENNSYLVANIA 
ALMANAC ENTITLED *^POOR RICHARD IMPROVED." 

Courteous Reader : I have heard that nothing gives an author so 
great pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by other learned 
authors. This pleasure I have seldom enjoyed ; for, though I have been, 
if I may say it without vanity, an eminent author (of almanacs) annually, 
now a full quarter of a century, my brother authors in the same way, for 
what reason I know not, have ever been very sparing in their applauses 
and no other author has taken the least notice of me ; so that, did not 
my writings produce me some solid pudding, the great deficiency of 
praise would have quite discouraged me. 

I concluded at length that the people were the best judges of 
my merit, for they buy my works; and, besides, in my rambles where 
I am not personally known, I have frequently heard one or other 
of my adages repeated with ''As Poor Richard says" at the end of 
it. This gave me some satisfaction, as it showed not only that my 
instructions were regarded, but discovered likewise some respect for 
my authority ; and I own that, to encourage the practice of remember- 
ing and reading those wise sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself 
with great gravity. 

Judge, then, how much I must have been gratified by an incident I 
am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately where a great 
number of people were collected at an auction of merchants' goods. 
The hour of the sale not being come, they were conversing on the 
badness of the times ; and one of the company called to a plain, clean 
old man with white locks, '' Pray, Father Abraham, what think you 
of the times ? Will not these heavy taxes quite ruin the country ? 
How shall we ever be able to pay them ? What would you advise us 
to do ? " Father Abraham stood up and replied, '' If you would have 
my advice, I will give it to you in short ; for A word to the wise is 
enough, as Poor Richard says." They joined in desiring him to speak 
his mind, and gathering round him, he proceeded as follows ; • 

^' Friends," said he, '' the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those 

laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we 

might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and 

much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by 

13 



194 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much 
by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease 
or deliver us by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to 
good advice, and something may be done for us; God helps them 
that help themselves, as Poor Richard says. 

I. ^^ It would be thought a hard government that should tax its 
people one tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service ; but 
idleness taxes many of us much more; sloth, by bringing on diseases, 
absolutely shortens life. Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor 
wears, while The used key is always bright, as Poor Richard says. 
But dost thou love life ? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff 
life is made of, as Poor Richard says. How much more than is neces- 
sary do we spend in sleep, forgetting that the sleeping fox catches no 
poultry, and that there will be sleeping enough in the grave, as Poor 
Richard says. If time be of all things the most precious, wasting 
time must be, as Poor Richard says, the greatest prodigality ; since, 
as he elsewhere tells us. Lost time is never found again, and what we 
call time enough always proves little enough. Let us, then, be up and 
be doing, and doing to the purpose ; so by diligence shall we do more 
with less perplexity. Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry, all 
easy ; and. He that riseth late must trot all day and shall scarce overtake 
his business at night ; while Laziness travels so slowly that Poverty 
soon overtakes him. Drive thy business, let not that drive thee ; and. 
Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and 
wise, as Poor Richard says. 

^^ So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times? We 
make these times better if we bestir ourselves. Industry need not 
wish, and he that lives upon hopes will die fasting. There are no gains 
without pains; then help, hands, for I have no lands; or, if I have, 
they are smartly taxed. He that hath a trade hath an estate ; and he 
that hath a calling, hath an office of profit and honor, as Poor Richard 
says ; but then the trade must be worked at and the calling followed, 
or neither the estate nor the office will enable us to pay our taxes. If 
we are industrious, we shall never starv^e ; for. At the workingman's 
house hunger looks in, but dares not enter. Nor will the bailiff or 
the constable enter; for Industry pays debts, while Despair increaseth 
them. What though you have found no treasure, nor has any rich 
relation left you a legacy ; Diligence is the mother of good luck, and 
God gives all things to Industry. Then plow deep while sluggards 



BENJAMIX FRAXKLIX. 1 95 

sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep. Work while it is 
called to-day, for you know not how much you may be hindered to- 
morrow. One to-day is worth two to-morrows, as Poor Richard says ; 
and, further. Never leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day. 
If you were a good servant, would you not be ashamed that a good 
master should catch you idle ? Are you, then, your own master ? Be 
ashamed to catch yourself idle, when there is so much to be done for 
yourself, your family, your country, your kin. Handle your tools with- 
out mittens ; remember that The cat in gloves catches no mice, as Poor 
Richard says. It is true there is much to be done, and perhaps you 
are weak-handed ; but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects ; 
for, Constant dropping wears away stones ; and, By diligence ancj 
patience the mouse ate in two the cable ; and. Little strokes fell great 
oaks. 

" Methinks I hear some of you say. Must a man afford himself no 
leisure ? I will tell thee, my friend, what Poor Richard says : Em- 
ploy thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure ; and since thou art 
not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour. Leisure is time for 
doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but 
the lazy man never ; for, A life of leisure and a life of laziness are t^vo 
things. Many, without labor, would live by their wits only, but they 
break for want of stock; whereas industry gives comfort and plenty 
and respect. Fly pleasures and they will follow you. The diligent 
spinner has a large shift ; and now I have a sheep and a cow, every 
one bids me good morrow, 

II. ^^ But with our industry we must likewise be steady and careful^ 
and oversee our own affairs wdth our own eyes, and not trust too much 
to others ; for, as Poor Richard says : 

I never saw an oft-removed tree. 

Nor yet an oft-removed family, 

That throve so well as those that settled be. 

And again. Three removes are as bad as a fire ; and again. Keep thy 
shop, and thy shop will keep thee; and again. If you would have your 
business done, go ; if not, send ; and again : 

He that by the plow would thrive. 
Himself must either hold or drive. 



196 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

And again, The eye of the master will do more work than both his 
hands ; and again, Want of care does us more damage than want of 
knowledge ; and again, Not to oversee workmen is to leave them your 
purse open. Trusting too much to others' care is the ruin of many ; 
for, In the affairs of this world men are saved, not by faith, but by the 
want of it. But a man's own care is profitable ; for, If you would have a 
faithful servant and one that you like, serve yourself. A little neglect 
may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for 
want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider 
was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy; all for want of a 
little care about a horseshoe nail. 

III. '' So much for industry, my friends, and attention to one's own 
business ; but to these we must add frugality, if we would make our in- 
dustry more certainly successful. A man may, if he knows not how 
to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life to the grindstone, and die 
not worth a groat at last. A fat kitchen makes a lean will ; and 

Many estates are spent in the getting, 
Since women forsook spinning and knitting, 
And men for punch forsook hewing and splitting. 

If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as of getting. The 
Indies have not made Spain rich, because her outgoes are greater than 
her incomes. 

^^Away, then, with your expensive follies, and you will not then 
have so much cause to complain of hard times, heavy taxes, and charge- 
able families; for 

Pleasure and wine, game and deceit, 
Make the wealth small, and the want great. 

And further. What maintains one vice would bring up two children. 
You may think, perhaps, that a little tea or a little punch now and 
then, diet a little more costly, clothes a little finer, and a little enter- 
tainment now and then, can be no great matter ; but remember, Many 
a little makes a mickle. Beware of little expenses ; A small leak will 
sink a great ship, as Poor Richard says ; and again. Who dainties love 
shall beggars prove ; and moreover, Fools make feasts and wise men 
eat them. 

^* Here you are all got together at this sale of fineries and knick- 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 197 

knacks. You call them goods; but, if you do not take care, they 
will prove evils to some of you. You expect they will be sold cheap, 
and perhaps they may for less than they cost ; but, if you have no oc- 
casion for them, they must be dear to you. Remember what Poor 
Richard says : Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thoushalt 
sell thy necessaries. And again. At a great pennyworth pause awhile. 
He means that perhaps the cheapness is apparent only, and not 
real; or, the bargain, by straitening thee in thy business, may do 
thee more harm than good. For in another place he says, Many 
have been ruined by buying good pennyworths. Again, It is foolish 
to lay out money in a purchase of repentance ; and yet this folly is 
practiced every day at auctions for want of minding the Almanac. 1 
Many for the sake of finery on the back have gone hungry and half- 
starved their families. Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out 
the kitchen fire, as Poor Richard says. 

^' These are not the necessaries of life; they can scarcely be called 
the conveniences ; and yet, only because they look pretty, how many 
want to have them. By these and other extravagances the genteel 
are reduced to poverty, and forced to borrow of those whom they for- 
merly despised, but who, through industry and frugality, have main- 
tained their standing ; in which case it appears plainly that, A plow- 
man on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees, as Poor 
Richard says. Perhaps they have a small estate left them w^hich they 
knew not the getting of; they think, It is day and it never will 
be night; that a little to be spent out of so much is not worth mind- 
ing ; but, Always taking out of the meal tub and never putting in, soon 
comes to the bottom, as Poor Richard says; and then. When the 
well is dry, they know the worth of water. But this they might have 
known before, if they had taken his advice. If you would know the 
value of money, go and try to borrow some ; for. He that goes a-bor- 
rowing goes a-sorrowing, as Poor Richard says ; and, indeed, so does 
he that lends to such people, when he goes to get it in again. Poor 
Dick further advises and says : 

Fond pride of dress is sure a very curse ; 
Ere fancy you consult, consult your purse. 

And again. Pride is as loud a beggar as Want, and a great deal more 

1 Poor Richard's maxims in the Almanac. 



198 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

saucy. When you have bought one fine thing, you must buy ten 
more, that your appearance may be all of a piece; but Poor Dick says, 
It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it. 
And it is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to 
swell in order to equal the ox. 

Vessels large may venture more. 

But little boats should keep near shore. 

It is, however, a folly soon punished ; for, as Poor Richard says, Pride 
that dines on vanity, sups on contempt. Pride breakfasted with 
Plenty, dined with Poverty, and supped wdth Infamy. And, after all, 
of what use is this pride of appearance, for which so much is risked, 
so much is suffered ? It cannot promote health nor ease pain ; it 
makes no increase of merit in the person ; it creates envy ; it hastens 
misfortune. 

" But what madness must it be to run in debt for these superfluities ? 
We are offered by the terms of this sale six months' credit; and 
that, perhaps, has induced some of us to attend it, because we can- 
not spare the ready money, and hope now to be fine without it. But 
ah! think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another 
power over your liberty. If you cannot pay at the time, you wall be 
ashamed to see your creditor ; you will be in fear when you speak to 
him ; you will make poor, pitiful, sneaking excuses, and by degrees 
come to lose your veracity, and sink into base, downright lying ; for. 
The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt, as Poor 
Richard says ; and again to the same purpose, Lying rides upon debt's 
back ; whereas a freeborn Englishman ought not to be ashamed nor 
afraid to see or speak to any man living. But poverty often deprives 
a man of all spirit and virtue. It is hard for an empty bag to stand 
upright. 

^^ What w^ould you think of that prince, or of that government, who 
should issue an edict forbidding you to dress like a gentleman or gen- 
tlewoman, on pain of imprisonment or servitude ? Would you not 
say that you are free, have a right to dress as you please, and that 
such an edict would be a breach of your privileges and such a govern- 
ment tyrannical? And yet you are about to put yourself under such 
tyranny, when you run in debt for such dress. Your creditor has 
authority, at his pleasure, to deprive you of your liberty by confin- 
ing you in jail till you ^shall be able to pay him. When you have 



BENJAiMIX FRANKLIN. 199 

got your bargain, you may, perhaps, think little of payment; but, as 
Poor Richard says. Creditors have better memories than debtors; 
creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times. 
The day comes round before you are aware, and the demand is made 
before you are prepared to satisfy it ; or, if you bear your debt in 
mind, the term, which at first seemed so long, will, as it lessens, ap- 
pear extremely short. Time will seem to have added wings to his 
heels as well as his shoulders. Those have a short Lent who owe 
money to be paid at Easter. At present, perhaps, you may think 
yourselves in thriving circumstances, and that you can bear a little 
extravagance without injury; but 

For age and want save while you may ; 
No morning sun lasts a whole day. 

Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever, while you live, ex- 
pense is constant and certain ; and. It is easier to build two chimneys 
than to keep one in fuel, as Poor Richard says ; so. Rather go to bed 
supperless than rise in debt. 

Get what you can, and what you get, hold, 

'Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into gold. 

And when you have got the philosopher's stone, be sure you will no 
longer complain of bad times or the difficulty of paying taxes. 

IV. *^This doctrine, my friends, is reason and wisdom; but, after 
all, do not depend too much upon your own industry and frugality 
and prudence, though excellent things; for they may all be blasted, 
without the blessing of Heaven; and, therefore, ask that blessing hum- 
bly, and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it, 
but comfort and help them. Remember Job suffered, and was after- 
ward prosperous. 

'' And now, to conclude, Experience keeps a dear school, but fools 
will learn in no other, as Poor Richard says, and scarce in that ; for, 
it is true, we may give advice, but we cannot give conduct. How- 
ever, remember this: They that will not be counseled cannot be 
helped ; and further that, If you will not hear Reason, she will surely 
rap your knuckles, as Poor Richard says." 

Thus the old gentleman ended his harangue. The people heard it, 
and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary, 



2 00 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

just as if it had been a common sermon ; for the auction opened and 
they began to buy extravagantly. I found the good man had thor- 
oughly studied my almanacs, and digested all I had dropped on these 
topics during the course of twenty-five years. The frequent mention 
he made of me must hav^e tired any one else ; but my vanity was won- 
derfully delighted with it, though I was conscious that not a tenth 
part of the wisdom was my own which he ascribed to me, but rather 
the gleanings that I had made of the sense of all ages and nations. 
However, 1 resolved to be the better for the echo of it ; and, though I 
had at first determined to buy stuff for a new coat, I went away re- 
solved to wear my old one a little longer. Reader, if thou wilt do the 
same, thy profit will be as great as mine. I am, as ever, thine to 
serve thee, 

Richard Saunders. 



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 201 

PROVERBS FROM POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC. 

The noblest question in the world is, What good may I do in it ? 

The masterpiece of man is to live to the purpose. 

The nearest way to come at glory is to do that for conscience which 
we do for glory. 

Do not do that which you would not have known. 

Well done is better than well said. 

Who has deceived thee so oft as thyself ? 

Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices. 

He that can have patience, can have what he will. 

After crosses and losses men grow humbler and wiser. 

In a discreet man's mouth a public thing is private. 

Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it. 

No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend. 

He that can compose himself is wiser than he that composes books. 

He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities. 

None but the well-bred man knows how to confess a fault, or ac- 
knowledge himself in error. 

Read much, but not too many books. 

None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing. 

Forewarned, forearmed. 

To whom thy secret thou dost tell, 
To him thy freedom thou dost sell. 

Don't misinform your doctor or your lawyer. 

He that pursues tw^o hens at once, does not catch one and lets the 
other go. 

The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise. 

There are no gains without pains. 

If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philoso- 
pher's stone. 

Every little makes a mickle. 

He that can travel well a-foot keeps a good horse. 

He is no clown that drives the plow, but he that doth clownish 
things. 



NOTES AND SUGGESTIONS 

Though he did not consider himself a man of letters, Franklin 
was throughout his long Hfe a writer. His writing was incidental to 
his business as a journaHst and statesman. He also corresponded 
widely with various classes of people. Fortunately many of these 
writings have been preserved, and from these and the Autobiography 
a number of valuable Hves have been written. The student \\ill find 
pleasure in referring to the Frankhn volumes of the American States- 
men Series and of the American ]\Ien of Letters Series. The three 
volume Hfe by Mr. John Bigelow and the one volume, The Many- 
sided Franklin, by Paul Leicester Ford, will supply the years of 
Franklin's Hfe not included in his autobiography, the writing of 
which was several times interrupted by public business of the great- 
est importance, and finaUy cut short by the long iHness that preceded 
his death. 

Read the pages devoted to FrankHn in Brander Matthews' Intro- 
duction to American Literature, Matthews says of him, ^^He was the 
first great American — for Washington was twenty-six years younger." 
"He was the only man who signed the Declaration of Independence, 
the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Eng- 
land, and the Constitution under which we still Hve." 

As you read Franklin's pages be on the alert for material to sup- 
port Mr. Matthews' statement, "Franklin was the first of American 
humorists, and to this day he has not been surpassed in his own 
Hne." WiU one of you report to the class on "FrankHn's Humor"? 

FrankHn was far in advance of his times on many questions. In 
1783, when concluding the Treaty of Peace with England, he tried 
to secure the adoption of a clause protecting the property of non- 
beUigerents in subsequent wars. England would not accept this 
advanced idea, but Frederick II of Prussia agreed to it, and since 
that time all civiHzed governments have united in embodying it in 
the Law of Nations. 

Franklin was one of the first and, in proportion to his means, one 

202 



NOTES AND SUGGESTIONS. 203 

of the greatest of American philanthropists. . He said that he had 
"a trick for doing a deal of good with a Httle money/^ In lending 
some money to one who had applied to him for assistance, he in- 
structed the borrower to pass it on to some one else in distress as 
soon as he could afford to repay it. "I hope it may thus go through 
many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress.^' 
Mr. Bigelow's Life of Frankhn reproduces the philosopher's exact 
speUing. He was one of the early speUing reformers. See his ^^ Peti- 
tion of the Letter Z," p. 116, The Many-sided Franklin, 

{In the following notes the numerals refer to the pages of the text) 
Page 17. "Ecton, in Northamptonshire.'' In 1657 George Wash- 
ington's grandfather emigrated to Virginia from this same Enghsh 
coimty. 

"Frankhn, ... an order of people." Do you recall one of the 
titles of Cedric, the Saxon, in Scott's Ivanhoe? 

27. Notice his judgment regarding controversy. It will be profit- 
able, from time to time, to consider his remarks as tliro\\dng Hght 
on the subject, "Franklin, a Manager of Men." 

28. Read carefully the paragraph opening with a reference to 
The Spectator J and using Franklin's method, reproduce that para- 
graph. Apply this method to other good EngHsh selections and try 
to adapt it to your translations from other languages. 

As you read Franklin's account of his self-education, ask yourseK 
what quahty it is in the student that gives best assurance of final 
success in securing a real education. 

34. Is Franklin's use of the word "demeaned" good? 

37. In his reference to Bunyan and Defoe, Franklin proves him- 
self one of the first critics to recognize those writers as the fathers 
of the modern novel. 

38. "Our acquaintance continued as long as he Hved." Few men 
have placed a higher value on friends than did Franklin. He took 
the trouble necessary to make friends and to keep them. 

61. Read parts of Young's Night Thoughts. 

77. Carefully observe the plan of the Junto and its subordinate 
branches, and consider the value of such organizations for yourself 
and friends. By referring to Bigelow's Life of Franklin, Vol. I, p, 185, 
you will find detailed information concerning the rules of the Junto. 



204 NOTES AXD SUGGESTIOXS. 

8i. Years later, while in London in 1773, Franklin showed his 
ability with his pen and put through a successful journaUstic hoax. 
He published in The Public Advertiser what was for a time accepted 
by many as an authentic edict of the King of Prussia. In this the 
king held that the EngHsh were German colonists settled in Britain, 
and that they should be taxed for the benefit of the Prussian coffers. 

What claims were the Enghsh making in 1 7 73 ? By looking through 
other Kves of Frankhn, you may find an account of another hterary 
hoax by which he helped the American cause. 

86. Franklin's original determination to secure money with his 
wife should be judged by the standards of his time. 

89. Beginning with the estabhshment of the Philadelphia pubhc 
library, keep a hst of Frankhn's plans and achievements for the 
pubhc good. 

92. The high honors accorded to Frankhn by foreign nations have 
never been extended to any other American, T\ith the possible ex- 
ception of Theodore Roosevelt. 

loi. ''Address Powerful Goodness." Thomas Paine submitted 
the manuscript of his Age of Reason to Franklin for criticism. Frank- 
lin advised him to burn it and concluded, ''If men are so kicked n'lth 
religion, what would they be iintJiout it ? " 

A facsimile of Frankhn's motion for prayers in the Federal Con- 
vention of 1787, when agreement on the Constitution seemed hope- 
less, will be found on page 168 of The Many-sided Franklin. The 
convention, though much given to acting on Franklin's ad\-ice, was 
aU but unanimous in defeating this motion. 

III. Frankhn's boyhood debate on the subject of the education 
of young women is reflected here as a settled comdction. 

113. The great scholar and historian, Gibbon, agreed ^ith Frank- 
hn concerning the languages. 

115. "Inoculation." Will you volunteer to make a report to the 
class on moculation and vaccination? The two combine in making 
one of the most interesting chapters in the history of medical science. 

117. You -^ill be interested in comparing the constable's watch 
of ragamuffins ^ith the watch in Shakespeare's Much Ado About 
Nothing. 

118. In many to^ns and cities there is much of interest con- 
nected with the fire department. "The Histor>^ of Our Fire De- 



NOTES AND SUGGESTIONS. 205 

partment/' "Fire Fighting/' and many other subjects may suggest 
themselves to you for written or oral reports. Possibly some one 
in the class may be able to tell in this connection how Crassus, the 
friend of JuHus Caesar, gained a great part of his wealth. 

119. Have you read of the work of WTiitefield and his associates 
in England? See "The iMethodist Movement" in Halleck's History 
of English Literature, or in some good EngHsh history. 

132. Your classmates will be interested in a report on the Franklin 
stove. Make some simple drawings to illustrate its principles. 

141. Find out definitely what system of street cleaning prevails 
in your home to^Ti. Write a feature article on that system, as if 
for a magazine. Some member of the class who has a camera will 
secure illustrations for you. Also write an editorial for a newspaper, 
an editorial inspired by the disclosures of the feature article. 

175. Wni several of you take up the subject of "Franklin's Electri- 
cal Experiments" and make reports to the class? 

185. Notice Franklin's alertness in suggesting the appHcation of 
scientific methods to practical aft'airs. Do you think that Emerson's 
definition of "genius" as given in the first paragraph of his essay on 
" Self-Rehance " can be justly applied to Frankhn? 

You wiJl be interested in follo^^^[ng Franklin's experiments in 
determining the value of oil in stilling the waves, and also his in- 
vestigations of the Gulf Stream and of the nature of storms. He 
asked, "WTiat signifies philosophy that does not apply to some 
use?" Yet he had a wonderful im.agination back of his practical 
nature. 

Emerson says that the chief use of a book is to inspire. On this 
basis how do you rank the Autobiography in usefulness? 



A HISTORY OF ENGLISH 
LITERATURE 

By REUBEN POST HALLECK, M.A. (Yale), 

Louisville Male High School. Price, ;^l.25 



HALLECK' S HISTORY OF ENGLISH LIT- 
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^ The book is a history of literature, and not a mere col- 
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in literature, receive adequate treatment. 
^ One of the most striking features of the work consists in 
the way in which literary movements are clearly outlined at 
the beginning of each chapter. Special attention is given to 
the essential qualities which diiFerentiate one period from 
another, and to the animating spirit of each age. The author 
shows that each period has contributed something definite 
to the literature of England. 

^ At the end of each chapter a carefully prepared list of 
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